Meningococcal disease is a serious, potentially fatal bacterial infection that strikes nearly 3,000 Americans annually. According to the National Meningitis Association, adolescents and young adults have an increased incidence of meningococcal disease compared to the general population, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all U.S. cases annually. However, the majority of cases among adolescents may be vaccine-preventable.
The disease is especially significant among college students, since studies show freshmen living in dorms are particularly vulnerable to meningococcal disease. Adolescents and young adults may be at increased risk for infection due to certain lifestyle factors, such as:
- Crowded living conditions (such as dormitories, boarding schools and sleep-away camps)
- Moving to a new residence
- Attendance at a new school with students from geographically diverse areas
- Going to bars
- Active or passive smoking
- Irregular sleeping patterns
For more detail on risks to college students, see the National Meningitis Association brochure Meningococcal Meningitis-Possible to Prevent. Dangerous to Ignore.
The American College Health Association (ACHA) recommends all first-year students living in residence halls receive the meningococcal vaccine. ACHA further recommends that other college students under 25 years of age may choose to receive meningococcal vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease. For more information from ACHA, see its Meningitis on Campus page. The Centers for Disease Control also publishes important information about meningitis.