Updated March 17, 2019

  • Serogroup B meningococcal disease, sometimes referred to as “meningitis B”, can be deadly within hours or days of getting sick. It can also lead to severe disabilities, such as loss of limbs.
  • The meningitis B vaccine is different than the “ACWY” meningitis vaccine (such as Menveo® and Menactra®). The “ACWY” meningitis vaccine does not protect against the bacteria which causes meningitis B.
  • All Rutgers University–New Brunswick undergraduate students are strongly recommended to receive the meningitis B vaccine.
  • Students can be vaccinated at many NJ pharmacies, their local healthcare provider, or through Rutgers Student Health. Make sure to bring your insurance card and prescription card with you.

Current Status
About Meningitis
Signs and Symptoms
Routes of Transmission

Rutgers University – New Brunswick Status

Two undergraduate students at Rutgers University – New Brunswick were recently diagnosed with serogroup B meningococcal disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) performed special tests on the specimens from the two cases; the tests showed that the typing genes tested were identical between the two organisms. While we cannot predict whether there will be additional cases of meningococcal disease on campus, having two cases occurring over a short time with genetically related organisms suggests that there is an outbreak associated with Rutgers University – New Brunswick.

Since immunization is the most effective way to protect against meningococcal disease, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and Rutgers University, with support from the CDC, strongly recommend serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (MenB) for the following at-risk populations at Rutgers University – New Brunswick:

  • All current and incoming undergraduate students including transfer students, regardless of whether they live in campus housing
  • Graduate students who live in undergraduate residence halls
  • All members of the Rutgers University – New Brunswick community with medical conditions that put them at increased risk for meningococcal disease. These conditions include all functional and anatomic asplenia (including sickle cell disease), persistent complement component deficiencies (C3, C5-C9, properdin, factor H, factor D), and taking Soliris® (eculizumab).
  • Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria.

Please note that the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenA,C,W and Y) required for residential students does not protect against serogroup B, so most at-risk students will require a separate vaccination.

At this time, there are no recommendations to cancel any activities or scheduled events at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. There is no reason for the general community to avoid Rutgers or Rutgers students.

Information from NJDOH, including resources for clinicians, can be found here.

About Meningitis

Meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially fatal infection with early symptoms that resemble the flu, making diagnosis difficult. When it causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, it is called meningococcal meningitis. Meningococcal disease can also cause bloodstream infections. There are several bacterial serogroups, or types, that cause meningococcal disease, most commonly serogroups A, C, W, Y, and B.

Signs and Symptoms Signs and symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Exhaustion
  • Rash

Symptoms often resemble those of the flu. If you have any doubts about your symptoms, see a doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment is important because meningococcal disease can be deadly within hours or days of getting sick. It can also lead to severe disabilities, such as loss of limbs.

Routes of Transmission

The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease require prolonged (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.

Fortunately, the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease are much harder to spread than the virus that causes the flu. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact, such as being in the same classroom as someone who is sick, sharing a bus with an infected person, or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningococcal disease has been.

The bacteria also cannot live outside of the body for very long. There is no evidence that says you are at risk of catching the infection by touching surfaces like doorknobs, keyboards, or exercise equipment that someone who is sick touched. Sharing facilities like a cafeteria, gym, bus, or classroom also does not put someone at increased risk of infection.


Vaccination is the best protection against meningococcal disease.

There are currently two licensed vaccines that protect against Serogroup B Meningococcal disease. These safe and effective vaccines may be given to anyone 16 – 23 years old to provide short-term protection against most strains of Serogroup B Meningococcal disease; 16 – 18 years are the preferred ages for vaccination. Individuals, who have not already been vaccinated, should consider contacting their healthcare provider or Rutgers Student Health to discuss vaccination against Serogroup B Meningococcal disease.

The recommended schedule depends on which vaccine you get:

  • Bexsero® is given as two doses, at least one month apart OR
  • Trumenba® in an outbreak setting, is given as three doses, with the second dose two months after the first and the third dose six months after the first.

Practicing good hygiene also helps stop the spread of disease.

Make sure you always:

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Use hand sanitizer often if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid drinking from common sources such as a punch bowl.

Don’t share the following:

  • Drinking glasses or water bottles
  • Eating utensils
  • Smoking materials
  • Cosmetics or lip balm

For additional questions, visit our FAQs page.