Meningitis outbreaks are rare occurrences, but due to the nature of the infectious disease spreading rapidly in large gatherings, college campuses are at higher risk. In attempts to prevent as much of this disease as possible, the Louisiana Legislature has passed a law requiring meningitis immunization for all college students living in residence halls. Unfortunately, the required vaccine does not address the specific strain currently causing illness across US campuses such as Princeton University and UC Santa Barbara. Serotype B, or “strain B,” is responsible for the current 2013 outbreaks, resulting in potential vaccine development targeting specifically “Strain B” to those specific campuses experiencing outbreaks. Medical prophylaxis is also being administered at those campuses to possibly exposed individuals.
Protective measures for this disease is very similar to the common cold and influenza.
Students and other members of the University community should remember these important points about meningitis:
Transmission occurs by direct contact with infectious respiratory droplets or oral secretions and does not survive well outside of people. It has, however, been reported to survive on glass and plastic at room temperatures for hours to days. Therefore, it is necessary to disinfect bathroom and kitchen surfaces as well as kitchen utensils and dishes. The causative agent of menigitis is highly susceptible to the temperature and duration of an automatic dishwasher cycle, e.g., >65 C for 5 min.
Common household disinfectants can be used against this type of bacteria. These include household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or ethyl rubbing alcohol 70%. It is not necessary to use full strength household bleach. You may dilute one cup into one gallon of water.
State and local health departments take the lead in investigating outbreaks and implementing control measures to reduce spread of the disease and would work closely with the Student Health Services. They often work closely with CDC who has published guidelines to assist with this. To ensure the health of everyone as much as possible in the setting of an outbreak, recommendations for further individual assessment would often include:
CDC supports state and local health departments in identifying a response that best protects their residents' health.
Meningitis is an infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. People sometimes refer to it as spinal meningitis. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium is important because the severity of illness and the treatment differ.
Bacterial meningitis is contagious, but generally is transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact, such as coughing, sharing drinks, kissing and being in close proximity for an extended period. The bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.
Although it can be very serious, meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics that prevent severe illness and reduce the spread of infection from person to person. Quick medical attention is extremely important if meningococcal disease is suspected.
o In 2011, Lousiana Department of Health and Hospitals reported incidence to be about 3 bacterial cases per 100,000 population (11 viral cases per 100,000)
Please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more complete information