Can You Tell Me More About the Outbreaks of Meningitis on College Campuses?

Paul A. Offit, MD, talks about meningococcus, a type of bacteria that is the most common cause of meningitis outbreaks on college campuses, and the two meningococcal vaccines available to protect teens and young adults.


Can you tell me more about the outbreaks of meningitis on college campuses?

Paul Offit, MD:  Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I’m talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

When we send our children off to college, we have a lot of things that we need to think about to make sure they’re ready, to make sure that they have what they need. One thing that many people don’t think about is vaccines. If your children have gotten vaccines when they’re little, they got vaccines again when they’re teenagers, do they need vaccines again when they’re 16 to 18 years of age before they go off to college? And the answer is, yes. The one specifically that one needs to consider is a meningitis vaccine. Now, there are a number of different kinds of bacteria that cause meningitis that have names like pneumococcus and Haemophilus influenzae type b, but the one to really worry about, the one that you see most commonly on college campuses, is one called meningococcus. And every year in this country, the United States, we see outbreaks of meningococcal disease on college campuses. For that reason then, I think it’s reasonable for parents to give their children the meningococcal vaccine. Now, there are two different kinds of meningococcal vaccine, which include all five serogroups of bacteria that could cause disease. One of the vaccines contains four of the serogroups; the other vaccine contains one of the serogroups. So, I think you should make sure, parents should make sure, that before they send their children off to college that they’re immune to this particular bacteria, meningococcus, by getting those two vaccines that can prevent it.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Feb 17, 2020