College Students at Higher Risk for Serious Illness

(U.S.) – The American Academy of Pediatrics is warning that college students are at an increased risk for developing serogroup B meningococcal disease when compared with non-college students.

The heightened risk affects college students aged 18-24 and officials explain that while the incidence is low, the illness is serious and potentially deadly, according to a study published in the January 2019 issue of Pediatrics.

The study, “Meningococcal Disease Among College-aged Young Adults: 2014-2016” (published Dec. 31 online), analyzed data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System and enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance.

From 2014 to 2016, 166 cases of meningococcal disease were reported in people ages 18-24, including 83 who were college students, the study reports. Within the group of college students, 60 (76.9 percent) of the cases were due to serogroup B, compared with 28 (38.4 percent) of non-college students, with a 3.54-fold risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease among college students compared to non-college students.


The vaccine for serogroup B (MenB) is not routinely recommended for all adolescents or college students but is available based on clinical decision-making. Students entering college and planning to live in dorms have also historically been at a higher risk than other people of the same age for meningococcal serogroup C and Y infections and are routinely recommended to receive the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine.

Researchers suggest boosting awareness among parents and providers about the availability of MenB vaccine, given the new information about the increased risk among college students for sporadic or outbreak-associated serogroup B meningococcal disease, and ensuring that students are up to date on the MenACWY vaccine.

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