Definition of Vaccine, meningococcal

Vaccine, meningococcal: A vaccine to prevent meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord due to bacterial infection by an organism called Neisseria meningitidis.

The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include drowsiness, headache, high fever, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting. The disease strikes 3.8 of every 100,000 college freshman in dorms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is fatal in 10-15% of cases.

College students and military recruits who live in dormitories or barracks are unusually susceptible to meningococcal meningitis. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in 1999 made a unanimous recommendation that college freshmen be vaccinated against this type of bacterial meningitis. The vaccine is effective against most strains of meningococcal meningitis in the US.

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA 1999;281:1906-1910) showed that college students who live on campus have triple the risk of acquiring meningococcal infection compared with their peers who live off-campus. Among the factors cited for a higher risk of the disease on campus were the relative crowding associated with dormitory residence, alcohol-related behaviors, and exposure to tobacco smoke. The same factors make young adults who are military recruits at higher risk for meningococcal meningitis and provide the basis for recommendations that they, too, receive the vaccine.


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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