UW-Madison recommends meningitis B vaccination for undergraduates; free immunizations available beginning Oct. 20

October 14, 2016

University Health Services (UHS) — in consultation with officials from the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — recommends that all UW–Madison undergraduate students become vaccinated against meningococcal disease serogroup B.

This recommendation comes in response to two confirmed cases in students last week. Both students are currently recovering and additional details are not being disclosed out of respect for the medical privacy of the students and their families.

Beginning Thursday, Oct. 20, UHS will offer students the vaccine Bexsero at no charge. Complete details on vaccine clinic times and locations will be available on Monday, Oct. 17. (To be effective, Bexsero requires a second dose, to be given one month after the initial dose.)

“The health and safety of our students is our top priority,” says William Kinsey MD, director of medical services at UHS. “This recommendation is the best approach to protect students who are at risk for contracting serogroup B. We want every UW–Madison undergraduate to be immunized.”

Meningococcal bacteria are spread through close contact with an infected person’s oral or nasal secretions. To limit the spread of respiratory illness, students are encouraged to practice good hand hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes, and not share drinking cups or eating utensils.

Most students are immunized against serogroups ACYW but very few students are vaccinated against serogroup B. Serogroup B vaccine has only recently become available and it is not routinely recommended.

Meningococcal disease most often causes meningitis, an inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It’s very rare, often comes on suddenly, and can progress rapidly. Symptoms include high fever (greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), accompanied by severe headache, neck stiffness and confusion. Vomiting or rashes may also occur. Anyone with these symptoms should contact a health care provider or go to an emergency room immediately.

Questions from the campus community can be directed to health@wisc.edu. Students who are concerned or have questions about their health or are in need of counseling or support are encouraged to contact UHS at 608-265-5600. For students experiencing symptoms after hours, the UHS nurse line is available at 608-265-5600 (option 1).

The Wisconsin Immunization Registry contains records for children and adults who were vaccinated in-state.

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent meningococcal disease, but proper respiratory hygiene is also important:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Use the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of used tissues.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub after having contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.

Additional information is available from UHS at https://www.uhs.wisc.edu/front/meningitis-and-prevention/.