The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania mandates that students living in college-owned and operated residence halls must either provide proof of meningitis immunization or sign a waiver to indicate they have been informed about the disease and the vaccine and have chosen not to be immunized.

Students who fail to submit proof of meningitis vaccination or a signed waiver may not receive a room key or be able to move into their residence hall. Students may also be placed on administrative hold and remain on hold until compliance is documented with the student health center.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bacterial Meningitis

What is Bacterial Meningitis?

Meningococcal disease is a rare, but potentially fatal, bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord.

What causes Bacterial Meningitis?

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitides .

How is Bacterial Meningitis spread?

The bacterium is spread by direct close contact with the discharges form the nose or throat of an infected person.  Fortunately, the bacteria that causes meningitis is not very contagious, and it is not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Meningitis often appears with flu-like symptoms that develop over 1-2 days.
  • Hallmark signs are sudden fever, severe headache, and a stiff neck.
  • Neurological symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, confusion and disorientation, drowsiness, sensitivity to bright light, and poor appetite.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is usually made by growing bacteria from a sample of spinal fluid obtained by a spinal tap.  Bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of antibiotics, but treatment must start as early as possible.

How is Bacterial Meningitis prevented?

  • Good personal hygiene can reduce the risk of getting the disease from an infected person.
  • Avoid sharing food, utensils, glasses and other objects with a person who may have or has been exposed to the infection.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Get vaccinated against Bacterial Meningitis.

Who is at risk of getting Bacterial Meningitis?

College students living in residence halls may be more likely to acquire meningococcal disease because of lifestyle factors, such as:

  • crowded living situations
  • bar patronage
  • active or passive smoking
  • irregular sleep patterns
  • sharing of personal items

How many people get Bacterial Meningitis on college campuses each year?

Approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, and 5 to 15 students will die as a result.

Who should be vaccinated?

  • All first-year students living in residence halls
  • Undergraduate students 25 years of age or younger who wish to reduce their risk for the disease may choose to be vaccinated
  • Students with medical conditions that compromise immunity (e.g., HIV, absent spleen, antibody deficiency, chemotherapy, immuno-suppressants)

How effective is vaccination?

The meningococcal vaccine provides protection against four of the five types of N. meningitidis bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in the United States – types A, C, Y, and W-135. In persons 15 to 24 years of age, 70 to 80 percent of cases are caused by potentially vaccine-preventable strains.

Is the vaccination safe? Are there any adverse side effects?

The vaccine is safe and effective, and adverse reactions are mild and infrequent. The most commonly reported reactions by adolescents and adults in clinical studies were pain at the injection site, headache, and fatigue. These respond to simple measures (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) and resolve spontaneously within a few days.

Additional information

The American College Health Association

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Meningitis Fact Sheet

Meningitis Waiver Form