Updated August 11, 2016

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What Is Meningococcal Disease?

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 include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion or rash. 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.

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. However, hand washing and covering your cough or sneeze are good hygiene practices to follow.

How Serious Is Meningococcal Disease?

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.

If you experience any signs and symptoms including high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion or rash, seek medical attention immediately. While meningococcal disease is treatable with antibiotics, treatment must be started quickly.

Beginning June 1, summer Health Center hours at Rutgers University–New Brunswick are Monday through Friday from 8:30am–4:30pm, at Hurtado Health Center only. For medical advice when the health centers are not open, students can call the Advice Nurse Line: 1-800-890-5882. Faculty and staff at Rutgers University–New Brunswick who have additional questions or concerns can contact the Occupational Health Department at 848-932-8254 or visit their health care provider.

What Is The Status of Meningococcal Disease at Rutgers University–New Brunswick?

Two Rutgers University-New Brunswick students had serogroup B meningococcal disease, sometimes referred to as “meningitis B”, in the Spring 2016 semester. Both students were hospitalized and both have fully recovered.

Testing performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the bacteria from the two students are genetically indistinguishable (a match) even though no common link was found between the two students. This suggests that the strain is present among the Rutgers University-New Brunswick student population.

I've Seen The Term "Outbreak" Being Used. What Does This Mean?

An outbreak occurs when there are multiple cases of the same serogroup (type) in a community or institution over a short period of time. Depending on the circumstances, having just two cases of the same serogroup may be considered an outbreak. Two students on the Rutgers University – New Brunswick campus developed meningococcal disease with genetically identical bacteria (a match) in a short period of time. Since no common link was found between the students, this suggests that this particular strain of bacteria is present on campus and public health officials are considering this to be an outbreak.

Who Is At Risk?

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and Rutgers University strongly recommend, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that the following Rutgers University–New Brunswick populations receive the serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine Trumenba® (Pfizer) this summer:

  • All incoming and returning Rutgers University–New Brunswick undergraduate students, including transfer students, regardless of whether or not they live in campus housing
  • Members of the Rutgers University–New Brunswick community who have any medical condition that puts them at increased risk for meningococcal disease. These conditions include functional and anatomic asplenia (including sickle cell disease), persistent complement component deficiencies (C3, C5-C9, properdin, factor H, factor D), and taking Soliris® for treatment of atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) or paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).
  • Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease, Neisseria meningitidis.

What If I Am A Faculty Member, Staff Member, Or Graduate Student Who Has One Of The Medical Conditions Listed Above?

Faculty, Staff, and Graduate students who have any of the medical conditions listed above should consult with their personal physician to discuss vaccination.

What If I Am A Faculty Member, Staff Member, Or Graduate Student Who Is Routinely Exposed To Neisseria meningitidis?

Any Rutgers University–New Brunswick employee that works with meningitis bacteria in a Rutgers lab should contact Occupational Health at 848-932-8254 to determine if they need vaccination.

What If I’m Not In One Of Those Groups? Can I Still Get The Vaccine?

Only the groups listed above are considered to have an increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease due to the occurrence of serogroup B meningococcal disease cases at Rutgers University–New Brunswick; however, any individual 16 through 23 years old can discuss the possibility of being vaccinated with their provider.

What Vaccine Do I Need?

There are currently 2 vaccines licensed in the United States that help protect against serogroup B meningococcal disease.

Based upon lab testing of the specific outbreak strain at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, the best protection is expected with the full 3-dose series of Trumenba (3rd dose 6 months after the first). Therefore, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and Rutgers University recommend, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that Trumenba® be administered to help protect against the particular strain present on the Rutgers University–New Brunswick campus. While one or two doses of Bexsero® or Trumenba® will provide some short-term protection against the specific outbreak strain at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, the best protection is expected to require completion of the full three-dose series of Trumenba® with the second dose given 1–2 months after the first and the third dose 6 months after the first.

Though no vaccine can provide 100% protection, vaccination is the best measure to help protect individuals against meningococcal disease.

It is important to receive the vaccine rather than waiting until you see symptoms and then seeking treatment because meningococcal disease can be deadly within hours or days of getting sick.

Didn’t I Already Get This Vaccine?

Most likely not. This vaccine is a different vaccine than the meningococcal vaccination that is already required for all undergraduate, graduate and transfer students who are in University housing. The required vaccine for residential students only protects against serogroups A, C, W, and Y. It does not protect against serogroup B, which is the strain detected on campus in spring 2016.

How Do I Find Trumenba®?

You can get Trumenba® from your health care provider or local pharmacy. To confirm availability, use the vaccine locator through CDC at http://www.vaccines.gov/getting/where/index.html, or call Trumenba® Vaccine Locator Service at 1-800-683-8572. As this has been classified as an outbreak setting, many insurance companies will cover the cost of the vaccine. You can confirm with your insurance company.

I Tried The Locator And Still Can't Find Trumenba®.

We have been in touch with pharmacies and health care providers throughout the state and the vaccine is currently being stocked. You should see an increase in the availability of Trumenba® in the second week of June 2016.

Trumenba® Stock Availability

New Jersey Walgreens and Rite Aid pharmacies are reporting they have the Trumenba® vaccine in stock. Out-of-state Walgreens and Rite Aid pharmacies should be able to get Trumenba® through their distribution center within 24 hours. Walmart and CVS pharmacies are in the process of building their supply of vaccine. We will continue to provide updates on availability.

Please call your local pharmacy to confirm availability of Trumenba®.

Please Note:

  • Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS and Walmart pharmacies do not need prescriptions to administer the MenB vaccine.
  • Be sure to bring your insurance card and prescription card with you when you go to get vaccinated.
  • If using a different pharmacy than above, please check with that pharmacy to determine if a prescription is needed.

Can I Get The Vaccine At Rutgers Student Health?

Rutgers Student Health does have some Trumenba® vaccines in stock. We have also been in touch with pharmacies and health care providers throughout the state and the vaccine is currently being stocked. You should see an increase in the availability of Trumenba® next week. To make an appointment with Rutgers Student Health, please call 848-932-7402.

How Many Doses Of The Trumenba® Vaccine Do I Need?

Trumenba® is given in 3 doses, with the second dose 1-2 months after the first, and the third dose 6 months after the first.

Are There Side Effects To The MenB Vaccine?

Available data suggest that serogroup B meningococcal vaccines are safe. Safety will continue to be monitored.

More than half of the people who get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine have mild problems following vaccination:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea or diarrhea

These reactions usually get better on their own within 3 to 7 days, but serious reactions are possible.

Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines are more likely to produce common or expected short-term side effects (especially pain where the shot was given) than other adolescent vaccines (i.e., HPV, quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate, and Tdap vaccine).

How Effective Is The Vaccine?

It takes about two weeks for your body to have an immune response to a vaccine. Because these vaccines are relatively new we do not yet fully understand their effectiveness against serogroup B meningococcal disease. Based on lab testing of the specific outbreak strain at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, the best protection is expected with the full 3 dose series of Trumenba®.

If you experience any symptoms of meningococcal disease (high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting, purple skin rash), seek medical attention immediately, regardless of whether or not you have been vaccinated. While meningococcal disease is treatable with antibiotics, treatment must be started quickly.

Why Is Trumenba® The Recommended MenB Vaccine?

Based upon the lab testing of the serogroup B meningococcal disease detected on campus, the best protection against the specific outbreak strain at Rutgers University–New Brunswick is expected with the full 3-dose series of Trumenba®. Therefore, the New Jersey Department of Health and Rutgers University recommend, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that Trumenba® be administered to help protect against the particular strain present on the Rutgers University–New Brunswick campus.

What If I Received The Bexsero® Vaccine?

If you have already received the full two-dose series of Bexsero®, the other vaccine licensed in the United States that helps protect against serogroup B meningococcal disease, you do not need to be re-vaccinated.

If you have only received the first dose of Bexsero®, it is recommended to complete the series with Bexsero®. Once you complete the series with Bexsero®, you do not need to be re-vaccinated. You will still need to submit verification of both doses of the vaccination. Verification and other forms can be found here.

Are Bexsero® And Trumenba® Interchangeable?

Trumenba® and Bexsero® are not interchangeable. If there is a reason to switch from Bexsero® to Trumenba®, it is recommended to wait at least 1 month between products and then receive the full 3-dose series of Trumenba®. You might want to confirm coverage with your insurance company.

Is The Vaccine Covered By Insurance?

As this has been classified as an outbreak setting, many insurance companies will cover the cost of the vaccine. You can confirm with your insurance company.

What If I Do Not Have Health Insurance And Am Among Those Recommended To Receive Trumenba®?

Students without health insurance can email Rutgers Student Health at vaccine@rci.rutgers.edu for assistance.

How Can I Submit Verification Of Receiving Trumenba®?

All Rutgers University-New Brunswick undergraduate students are required to either submit verification of receiving the vaccine series or sign a document containing information about meningococcal disease prevention and vaccination. Verification and other forms can be found here. Completed forms can be returned two ways:

By email: vaccine@rci.rutgers.edu

By mail:
Rutgers University
Attention: Immunizations
57 US Highway 1
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

What Does Declination Mean?

If you choose not to get or complete the recommended meningitis B vaccine, it means you are declining the vaccine and are required to submit a declination form to Rutgers Student Health. We understand that students may choose to decline the vaccination for a variety of reasons, including medical or religious reasons. However, we urge you to take this health advisory seriously. Meningitis B can be deadly within hours or days of getting sick. It can also lead to severe disabilities, such as loss of limbs. If you plan to decline due to concerns about payment, insurance, finding the vaccine, or any other logistical issue, please contact Student Health to see if we can help.

Some things to keep in mind about declination:

  • You only need to submit a declination form if you choose not to receive or complete the vaccination series.
  • If you receive vaccination at your doctor’s office or local pharmacy, that is not declining. However, you need to submit a verification form after each dose.
  • If you submit a declination form and then change your mind, that’s fine! You will still be able to receive the vaccination series.
  • If you’ve been unable to begin the vaccination series this summer but plan to attend one of our on-campus clinics, you do not need to submit a declination. However, you need to submit a verification form after each dose.

Verification and other forms can be found here. You can contact Rutgers Student Health at health@rutgers.edu or 848-932-7402.

Is The Vaccine Required?

The vaccine is strongly recommended by Rutgers University and the New Jersey Department of Health, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you choose not to receive the vaccine, we ask that you sign and submit a declination form, which can be found on our resources page.

I Have Or Will Be Visiting Rutgers University–New Brunswick. Should I Be Concerned?

There is no evidence that campus visitors to Rutgers University–New Brunswick are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease due the recent diagnosis of two students with serogroup B meningococcal disease.

How Can I Help Stop The Spread Of Meningococcal Disease?

Meningococcal bacteria are spread from person-to-person through the exchange of saliva (spit), coughs, and sneezes. You must be in direct (close) or lengthy contact with an infected person’s secretions to be exposed (e.g., kissing, sharing eating utensils, sharing water bottles, sharing smoking materials such as cigarettes and vaping materials).You can help stop the spread by doing the following:

  • Don’t share anything that comes into contact with the mouth (drinking glasses, smoking materials, eating utensils, cosmetics or lip balm)
  • Always cough into a sleeve or tissue
  • Wash hands frequently (use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available)