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Meningococcal B Disease

Here at the University of Cincinnati, we care about our students’ health and a smart choice to make is to get a Meningitis B vaccination. This web page will provide you with general information about meningitis B and the vaccine. 

 Meningococcal Disease: What You Need to Know

  1. The risk of meningococcal disease is higher in young adults and those living in group settings such as residence halls.
  2. There have been recent outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease at universities and colleges across the country, which have resulted in several deaths.  There have been sporadic cases of the disease in the local Cincinnati community.
  3. Meningococcal disease is typically spread by exchange of respiratory and throat secretions. This is most commonly done by kissing or sharing eating utensils and drinking glasses.
  4. Meningococcal meningitis causes a sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. You also might have nausea, vomiting, an increased sensitivity to light, and altered mental state or confusion.
  5. Bexsero® is a newly available vaccine to help protect against serogroup B meningococcal disease.
  6. The MenB vaccine is not the same vaccine you may have received previously.  That one protects against other strains of meningococcal disease.

Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease and Vaccines

There are several types of meningococcal disease caused by different serogroups (“strains”) of the Neisseria meningitis bacteria. One type is serogroup B meningococcal disease.  

Vaccines Are Now Available to Help Prevent Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease

Two serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccines (Bexsero® and Trumenba®) are licensed. They are different from the meningococcal vaccine you may have already received. That prior vaccine does not offer protection against serogroup B meningococcal disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that a MenB vaccine may be administered to adolescents and young adults 16 through 23 years old to help protect against most serogroup B meningococcal disease.

Outbreaks of Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease Occur on College Campuses

Several recent outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease have occurred on college campuses across the United States.  In 2013, outbreaks at two universities in New Jersey and California had a combined 13 cases and one associated death. In 2015, outbreaks at two universities in Oregon and Rhode Island saw a combined nine cases and one death. Those schools now all recommended MenB vaccination for their students.

UC’s University Health Services (UHS) Strongly Recommends MenB Vaccine for Students

With these recent outbreaks in mind, UC’s University Health Services (student health center) has learned that a few cases of serogroup B meningitis have hit the local community.  Therefore, UC’s UHS strongly recommends all students aged 25 and under receive the MenB vaccine. The two-dose vaccine is currently available at our student health center. Getting both shots is important to provide the best protection against this serious disease.

 Following are frequently asked questions about the new MenB vaccine:

1.    Why do I need the MenB vaccine?

Meningococcal disease is a very serious, potentially fatal, illness.  The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease require lengthy or very close, person-to-person contact in order to spread. You must be in close contact (e.g., by living in close quarters, kissing) with the person’s saliva (spit) or other respiratory secretions in order for the bacteria to spread.  Vaccination can help keep you safe and healthy. 

2.    What could happen if I get meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease can cause meningitis or bacteremia/septicemia (infection of the bloodstream).  Common symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. Symptoms of meningococcal septicemia may include fever, fatigue, vomiting, cold hands and feet, cold chills, severe aches or pains, rapid breathing, diarrhea and a dark purple rash.  
Symptoms can develop quickly or over several days. Even with antibiotic treatment, meningococcal disease can be fatal in about 10 to 15 percent of cases. Of those who survive, about 11 to 19 percent have long-term complications such as permanent hearing loss, loss of limb or brain damage.

 3.    Is the MenB vaccine the same as the general meningitis vaccine?

No. The MenB vaccine can only help prevent serogroup B meningococcal disease. The other meningococcal vaccine, known as meningococcal conjugate vaccine, covers serogroups A, C, W and Y. These are different strains than serogroup B. The serogroup B (MenB) vaccine is new and recently approved.  Both types of meningococcal vaccines are important for college students.

4.    Are there potential side effects from the vaccine?

As with all vaccines, there could be some side effects. The most common include pain at the injection site, painful muscles and joints, nausea, a general feeling of being unwell and a headache. You should contact UHS immediately if any of these become serious or if you notice other side effects.  Among young adults, there is also a risk of fainting after getting this, or any, vaccine.  We will ask you to stay for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine to ensure that a severe reaction or fainting does not occur. 


5.  What else can I do to avoid getting sick?

For meningococcal disease, we recommend that you:

  • Know the symptoms of meningococcal disease.
  • Avoid activities – like smoking or sharing respiratory secretions (such as by saliva, kissing or close coughing) that may increase your risk of illness.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you have any symptoms of meningitis or a bloodstream infection.

For additional information on meningococcal disease and the MenB vaccine, please visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Meningococcal General Information
Meningococcal Vaccine Information

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University Health Services

Richard E. Lindner Center
2751 O'Varsity Way, 3rd Floor
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0010

Mail Location: 0010
Phone: 513-556-2564
Fax: 513-556-1337