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Questions and Answers

​​​​​​​​​​​Updated February 6, 2015


Q: How do​​e​s meningitis B spread?

A: Bacterial meningitis is contagious, but generally is transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact, such as sharing drinks, kissing, sharing smoking materials, etc. Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. See Meningitis General Information​ for additional information about the disease.


Q: W​hat ar​e t​​he symptoms and how is it treated?​

A: Symptoms of bacterial meningitis could include high fever, headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, confusion and sensitivity to light. Later in the illness, a rash that looks like purple blotches or spots on the arms, legs and torso may appear. Treatment should be started immediately. Most people with meningitis are hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, other treatments may also be necessary.


Q: Ca​n I be​ exposed to the meningitis B bacteria from close contact with someone who has received the meningitis B vaccine?

A: The vaccine protects the individual who received it from becoming sick with meningitis B, but individuals who have been vaccinated can still carry the bacteria in their nose and throat. Thus, close contact with a person who has been vaccinated may still be risky.


Q: How lo​ng can someone be a carrier after getting this vaccine?

A: (From the CDC): Since this vaccine is relatively new, we do not have enough data to know what the impact is on carriage. For meningococcal bacteria in general, we are not certain for each person how much time he or she can carry the bacteria.  We do know that carriage is not permanent and generally lasts weeks to months. The length of time may vary by person and with each specific strain of the bacteria. We do not have specific data on the duration of carriage, or what the maximum duration of carriage is, for all strains.


Q: C​​ould I ge​​​t the meningitis B vaccine from my doctor?​

A: In October 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a meningitis B vaccine, Trumenba, made by Pfizer. This vaccine requires three doses - initial, second dose after two months, third dose after six months. In January 2015, the FDA approved Bexsero, a meningitis B vaccine by Novartis. This vaccine requires two doses, spaced at least one month apart.​

While both vaccines are licensed for individuals ages 10 through 25, medical experts have not yet made recommendations as to whom should receive them. Thus, while all physicians have access to the vaccines, not all will have it in stock.


Q: Should I avoid attending events on the Providence College campus or visiting the College?​

A: No. The CDC and state health officials have not recommended cancelling or curtailing planned activities on the PC campus. Casual contact with PC students does not put you at risk for meningitis.


Q: Ca​​n accept​​ed students and visitors stay overnight in dorms or residence halls?

A: The act of sleeping in a dormitory for a few days does not in itself put you at risk for meningitis. However, many overnight visitors participate in certain social activities that might put them at greater risk for close contact.


Q: Should I t​​ake antibiotics before going to Providence College for an event or activity?

A: No. Per the CDC, there is no recommendation to take antibiotics before attending events or activities at Providence College. Only people who have been in close contact with a suspect or confirmed case of meningococcal disease need to be considered for preventive treatment.


Q: Are the cases of meningitis at University of California-Santa Barbara or Princeton Universi​ty related to the outbreak at PC?  How do you know?

A: No, the cases are not related. While the cases at both the University of California-Santa Barbara and Princeton involve serogroup B meningococcal bacteria, the genetic strains of the bacteria are not the same.