The bacteria that cause Meningococcal disease are spread in saliva and mucous from the mouth and nose of an infected person. They live only for a few minutes outside the body. Good hygiene provides effective protection against many infections.
- Cover one's mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- Dispose of used tissues
- Wash hands
- Avoid sharing anything that comes in contact with the mouth
The following information is intended to help people assess their own risk when they know of a person who has meningococcal disease.
In college residences and dormitories, large numbers of people live in close quarters and are at a higher risk of becoming infected with meningococcal disease than students who live off campus. The risk is highest during the first year. Because of the unique set up of each residence, public health officials will assess the degree of risk and appropriate preventive steps in each setting.
If a resident becomes ill with meningococcal disease, only close contacts with that person are at risk of infection and may require preventive treatment. Generally, students are considered to be close contacts if they have had significant direct contact with secretions from the mouth of nose of the infected person by
- Sharing the same living space
- Sharing anything that has been in contact with the mouth or tongue
Close contacts do not pose a risk to others and may continue to live in residence and attend classes. Depending on the circumstances, public health officials may recommend that close contacts receive antibiotics, vaccine (link to vaccines page) or both to prevent additional cases of meningococcal disease. Friends, relatives and co-workers of close contacts do not require preventive treatment.
Because of an increased risk of meningococcal disease observed among first year university students in the USA and UK, vaccination programs are recommended. In some states, vaccination is compulsory. In Canada, immunization against group C infection should be considered for students living in residences or dormitories. Many post secondary schools have immunization clinics for new students.
For more information about the vaccines available click here.
For more information about preventive treatment of close contacts, click here.
Index of Meningococcal Disease in Different Settings: