Meningitis Risks

Information for new students and their parents

In accordance with California state law, we are required to notify you about meningitis (meningococcal disease) and the available vaccination so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not you wish to be immunized. We recommend, but do not require, this vaccination.

If you are not yet 19 years old, you can receive the meningitis vaccine at your County Health Department for just $10!

Meningitis Risks and Vaccination

A U.S. health advisory panel urges all first-year college students living in residence halls to be vaccinated against meningitis/meningococcal disease. Because freshmen living in dorms are found to have a significantly increased risk for meningitis compared to other 18-25 year olds, this is an urgent concern. Other college students who wish to reduce their risk of this potentially fatal disease should also be immunized.

What is meningococcal disease, and why is it so dangerous?

Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection. It can cause meningitis – severe swelling of the brain and spinal cord. It can also lead to sepsis —a life-threatening blood infection. Meningococcal infection is contagious, progresses very rapidly, and can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu. If not treated early, meningitis can lead to death or permanent disabilities.

One in ten of those who develop meningococcal disease will die. Of those who survive, 20% will suffer from permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, or limb amputation. For unknown reasons, fatality rates among people 15-24 years old are up to five times higher than in the general population.

What are the symptoms?

The early symptoms usually associated with meningococcal disease include

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • A rash of reddish-purple dots
  • Nausea, vomiting and lethargy
  • Flu-like symptoms

Because the disease progresses rapidly, often in as little as 12 hours, prompt diagnosis and treatment are extremely important!

What are the risk factors, and how is it spread?

Risk factors for meningitis include crowded living situations, such as college dorms, where many people live in close proximity to each other. Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted through air droplets and direct contact with persons who are carriers or are ill with the disease. Direct contact also occurs with shared items, such as drinking glasses, straws, and eating utensils, and through intimate contact such as kissing. One new study shows that kissing multiple partners quadruples the risk of developing meningococcal meningitis.

Is vaccination effective?

The newest meningitis vaccine, Menactra (MCV4), is recommended for ages 2 through 55 years of age. This vaccine can prevent 4 types of meningococcal disease, including 2 of the 3 types most common in the United States and a type that causes meningitis in Africa. Menactra is effective for eight years, takes boosters well, and also eliminates the carrier state.

Is the vaccine safe? What about side effects?

The vaccine is very safe and adverse reactions are mild and infrequent, consisting primarily of redness and pain at the site of injection lasting up to two days.

Simpson University does not offer the meningitis vaccine

Due to the very high cost of the vaccine for non-government agencies, and no credits for return of unused doses, we are not able to offer this vaccine. But if you are not yet 19 years old, you can receive Menactra at your County Public Health Department for just $22. For those 19 and over who wish to be vaccinated, call your County Public Health Department for pricing and appointment information. Also, check with your insurance plan to see if they cover the cost of this important immunization.