Princeton University will follow the federal Centers for Disease Control recommendation and provide undergraduate and graduate students who live in dormitories with a vaccine that helps protect against meningitis B, the school announced this afternoon.
“Pending final CDC approval, the university is prepared to accept these recommendations and make arrangements to provide access to this vaccine as soon as possible,” reads an email sent to students, faculty and staff, and parents of current undergraduate students.
Federal health officials agreed last week to import Bexsero, a vaccine licensed in Europe and Australia but not the U.S., in response to the outbreak at Princeton University. Bexsero will be approved for use only in the Princeton community.
University officials hope to make the first of two doses of the vaccine available in early December. The vaccine will be provided to all Princeton undergraduates, all graduate students living in dormitories, and individuals with health conditions like sickle cell disease. The vaccine would be made available only to these groups, and it will not be administered to anyone else.
The University expects to make a second dose available in February. Two doses of the vaccine are required for maximum protection.
At the request of the New Jersey Department of Health earlier this month, the CDC reviewed the seven cases of meningococcal disease contracted by Princeton University students and a student visitor.
State officials declared that there was an outbreak at the school after a male student developed symptoms of meningococcal disease on November 9. The case was later confirmed, making it the seventh case since the spring.
A female student who was away from campus for spring recess last March developed symptoms of meningococcal disease when returning to the area. Then a visitor on the campus April 6-8 was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis after returning to another state. A male student was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis in May. A male student who lives out of state developed symptoms on his way home for summer recess in May. Another male student who developed symptoms in June while traveling abroad. The sixth case was a female student who developed symptoms on Oct. 1 and is still recovering. No common link has been identified among the cases, state officials said.
Meningococcal disease can be spread from person to person. The bacteria are spread by exchanging respiratory and throat secretions during close contact (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact, especially if people are living in the same dorm or household. Many people carry the bacteria in their throats without getting meningococcal disease. Since so many people carry the bacteria, most cases of meningococcal disease appear to be random and aren’t linked to other cases.
Although anyone can get meningococcal disease, adolescents and college freshmen who live in dormitories are at an increased risk. The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease are less infectious than the viruses that cause the flu. You can help prevent the spread of illnesses by covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, by washing your hands, and by avoiding sharing utensils, water bottles or other items contaminated by saliva or respiratory secretions.