Five meningococcal cases confirmed at two U.S. colleges

At least five meningococcal disease cases have been confirmed in recent weeks at college campuses across the U.S., the National Meningitis Association (NMA) said Tuesday.

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that usually causes meningitis, a potentially deadly infection of the brain and spinal cord; sometimes causes meningococcemia, a bloodstream infection; or, in other cases, leads to both.

At Providence (R.I.) College, two students were diagnosed with serogroup B meningitis, and at the University of Oregon, three students were diagnosed with meningococcemia, with one case confirmed as serogroup B. This past weekend, a student at Yale (Conn.) University was hospitalized with a suspected case of meningitis. Test results are pending.

"We encourage all college students to make sure they are up-to-date with the currently recommended vaccines, including the booster, before they leave for college," NMA President Lynn Bozof said. "Parents and students should also speak to their health care providers about the new vaccines to protect against serogroup B, which we hope will soon be recommended to protect all adolescents."

All three colleges have implemented programs to educate their students.

Two different vaccines are available to protect against the disease. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against four major strains of the meningococcal bacteria: A, C, W and Y, while two monovalent serogroup B vaccines were recently approved in the U.S. for those ages 10 to 25.