Overview of Meningitis

Meningococcal (bacterial) Meningitis is an infection of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis is less severe and usually resolves without treatment. Bacterial meningitis is a rare, but severe bacterial infection. Death occurs in 10-15% of infected persons and 11-19% will have complications, including limb amputations. College students have an increased risk of meningococcal disease, which is associated with the dense living and social environment among other factors.


Some forms of bacterial meningitis are contagious. The bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (i.e., coughing, kissing). Individuals in the same household or anyone in direct contact with a person who has meningitis are at increased risk for acquiring infection.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Severe Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Discomfort looking into bright lights
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Seizures


Most college students should have received the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine that protects against four strains of the disease (A,C, Y, and W) during adolescence. However, until the end of 2014 there was no vaccine in the United States that protects against serogroup B. Serogroup B disease is now the most common cause of meningococcal meningitis in college age students and has been responsible for all of the college outbreaks over the last few years.

We encourage you to protect yourself against this serious disease by obtaining the serogroup B vaccine. In addition, If you have never received the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (Menactra or Menveo), it is also recommended that you receive this vaccine.


Bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. It is important, that treatment is started early.

People in the same household or day care center, or anyone with direct contact with a patient's oral secretions (e.g., through kissing or sharing food and drinks) would be considered at increased risk of acquiring the infection. People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningitis caused by N. meningitidis should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease.

How We Can Help

  • Both types of Meningitis vaccination (Quadrivalent and Serogroup B) are available at SHCS Medical Services. More information is available on our page about Meningococcal Meningitis Vaccination Recommendations.
  • If you would like to be seen by our medical staff, please contact our Appointment Desk to schedule an appointment.
  • Also, our Advice Nurse service is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss health concerns and the need for medical care.