2014-2016 Data Shows Risk of Meningitis Higher Among College Students

2014-2016 Data Shows Risk of Meningitis Higher Among College Students

As students prepare to head off to college, talk to your doctor about vaccination to help prevent meningitis

(BPT) – Nicolis “Nico” Williams was a junior at Texas A&M University when one day in February 2011, he had a bad headache after a night out with friends.

“It was bad enough for him to want to go to a clinic. They treated him for flu-like symptoms, and he went home to rest,” remembers Nico’s older sister Tiffany. “Later, his roommates found him disoriented and rushed him to the hospital.”

That was when Nico was diagnosed with meningitis B — costing him his life at only 20 years old.

Meningococcal meningitis, often referred to as meningitis or bacterial meningitis, is an inflammation of the protective membranes, or meninges, covering the brain and spinal cord. It is an uncommon but serious disease that can be deadly.[1]

Serogroups A, C, W, Y and B historically account for most of the meningitis cases in the United States.[2]

Although meningitis B is uncommon, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance data from 2014-16 showed the risk of contracting meningitis B was approximately 3.5 times higher in college students compared with persons not attending college of the same age.[3]

Nico had not received the vaccine that helps protect against meningitis A, C, W or Y, and meningitis B vaccines were not available in 2011. In 2014, new vaccines were approved to help prevent meningitis B. Now there are two different types of vaccines and both are needed to help protect against all of the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis.[4]

Shortly after Nico passed away, Tiffany’s family began working with the J.A.M.I.E. (Joint Advocacy of Meningococcal Information & Education) Group, founded by meningitis survivor Jamie Schanbaum and her family, to change meningitis vaccination law in the state of Texas. In May 2011, the Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act was passed, making Texas the first state in the US to require all first-time college students to be vaccinated against meningitis A, C, W and Y.[*]

In 2012, Tiffany and her family founded The NICO Williams Foundation (Neglecting Immunizations Compromising Opportunity), a nonprofit which works to educate about meningococcal disease and its vaccinations, with a current focus on meningitis B.

Today, Tiffany works as a spokesperson for GSK, sharing her brother’s story to educate parents and young adults about the dangers of meningitis and the types of vaccines available to help prevent it.

“By the time my brother made it to the hospital, it was too late,” Tiffany says. “So now I do this — I advocate and I educate. I don’t want anyone else to lose a sibling, I don’t want parents to lose a child, and I don’t want friends to lose friends.”

Did You Know:

  • About one in 10 people infected with meningitis will die[5], while approximately one in five survivors will suffer long-term disability, such as loss of limbs, brain damage, deafness and nervous system problems.[6]
  • Early symptoms may be similar to those of a cold or the flu but can progress quickly and can be fatal or cause disability, sometimes within 24 hours.[7]
  • Vaccines are the best defense against acquiring bacterial meningitis[8], although vaccines may not result in protection in all recipients.
  • According to the CDC:
    • All 11- to 12-year-olds should be vaccinated against serogroups A, C, W and Y with a booster dose given at 16 years old[4]
    • Teens and young adults who are 16 through 23 years old may also be vaccinated against serogroup B, preferably at 16 through 18 years old[4]

Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as bacterial meningitis, are continuing to impact our communities, including in our schools and on college campuses. With many young adults heading off to college this fall, now is an ideal time to set up medical appointments to talk to their doctors about the vaccinations they may need.

Visit http://www.meningitis.com for more information.


[*] The Texas law applies to the vaccine that helps protect against meningitis A, C, W & Y, as the B vaccines were not available at the time.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningitis. March 28, 2018. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html. Page 1, Paragraph 1.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Information Statements (VISs): Meningococcal ACWY Vaccines (MenACWY and MPSV4) VIS. March 2016. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening.html. Page 1, Paragraph 3.

[3] Meyer S. Epidemiology of meningococcal disease among college students—United States, 2014-2016. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip/meetings/downloads/slides-2018-02/Mening-02-Meyer-508.pdf. Presented at the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices; February 22, 2018

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal Vaccination for Preteens and Teens: Information for Parents. May 2017. Page 1, Paragraph 4. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/public/adolescent-vaccine.html. Page 1, Paragraph 1.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal Disease. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/17-275138A-MeningococcalDis-FS.pdf. April 2017.

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal Disease: Technical and Clinical Information. June 2016. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/clinical-info.html. Page 1, Paragraph 4.

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. April 2014. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.html. Page 1, Paragraphs 10-12.

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal Vaccines for Preteens and Teens. December 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/teen/mening.html. Page 1, Paragraph 6.