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Meningococcal Disease: Focus on Serogroup B

Why is serogroup B meningococcal disease of particular concern?

Serogroup B is unique because it is the most common cause of meningococcal disease in US adolescents and young adults.

  • Meningococcal serogroup B vaccination may be recommended by healthcare professionals for certain individuals age 16-23 years, with a preferred age of 16-18 years. Individuals in this age group are encouraged to talk with their healthcare professional about vaccination.
  • Routine vaccination with meningococcal A, C, W, Y vaccines is recommended for all individuals at age 11-12 years, with a booster dose at age 16 years.

Have there been serogroup B meningococcal outbreaks on college campuses?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about recent meningococcal outbreaks.

Because it is impossible to know whether one case will be isolated or if it signals the start of an outbreak, even one case can cause considerable concern on and around campuses.

Following any case, campus and local health officials generally identify and give preventive treatment to people who were in contact with the student, examine the bacteria isolated from the student to determine if these cases are related to any others (i.e., are part of an outbreak), and monitor closely for additional cases. Campus-wide, and often community-wide educational and awareness programs are often also put in place.

Is serogroup B disease more severe than other serogroups?

  • Serogroup B meningococcal disease is of similar severity to disease caused by other serogroups.
  • Meningococcal disease, regardless of serogroup, is marked by rapid progression (typically hours, but occasionally days) from symptom onset to severe outcomes, even when it is treated quickly.
    • Even with rapid and appropriate treatment, is 1 in 10 will die.
    • Long-term complications will affect 1 in 5 survivors and include hearing loss, skin scarring, brain damage, kidney failure, and limb amputations among others.

Additional Resources

Meningococcal Disease in Adults

Many adults need to be vaccinated if they are at increased risk of meningococcal disease, including college students, military personnel, and some international travelers