Updated March 12, 2019

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 the following at-risk populations at Rutgers University – New Brunswick be fully vaccinated against serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (MenB):

  • 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.

The meningitis ACWY vaccine required for residential undergraduate students does not protect against meningitis B, which is the type that caused the infections on the Rutgers University–New Brunswick campus.

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.

Vaccination Requirements

In response to the recent serogroup B meningococcal infections in two undergraduate students, all Rutgers University–New Brunswick undergraduate students, regardless of whether or not they live in campus housing, are strongly recommended to be fully vaccinated against serogroup B meningococcal.

Two vaccines provide protection against serogroup B meningococcal disease: Bexsero®, given as a 2-dose series, and Trumenba®, given as a 3-dose series.

  • If you have not previously received a MenB vaccine, receive a first dose as soon as possible and complete the series with the same MenB vaccine.
  • If you have started but not completed a MenB vaccine series, complete the series with the same MenB vaccine.
  • If you completed a MenB series AND the last dose of the series was more than 1 year ago, get an additional dose with the same MenB vaccine to optimize protection during this outbreak.

After each dose is received, upload the signed form to the Rutgers Immunization Portal, https://rutgers.medicatconnect.com, AND enter the dates of vaccination.

Current students should begin the vaccination series, complete the original series, or receive an additional dose as soon as possible, but no later than by April 30, 2019.

Incoming students, including transfer students, should begin the vaccination series, complete the original series, or receive an additional dose prior to starting the fall 2019 semester.

The vaccine for meningitis ACWY, which is required for residential undergraduate students, does not protect against meningitis B, which is the type that caused the infections on the Rutgers University–New Brunswick campus.

How do I know if I need the full vaccination series or just an additional dose?

  • If you have not previously received a MenB vaccine, receive a first dose as soon as possible and complete the series with the same MenB vaccine.
  • If you have started but not completed a MenB vaccine series, complete the series with the same MenB vaccine.
  • If you completed a MenB series AND the last dose of the series was more than 1 year ago, get an additional dose with the same MenB vaccine to optimize protection during this outbreak.
  • After each dose is received, upload the signed form to the Rutgers Immunization Portal, https://rutgers.medicatconnect.com, AND enter the dates of vaccination.

What is meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially fatal infection caused by the bacteria, Neisseria meningitides. Early symptoms 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 or very close, person to person contact in order to spread. You must be in close contact (e.g., living in close quarters, kissing, etc.) 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 with a tissue or your sleeve are good hygiene practices to follow.

How serious is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially fatal infection with a case fatality rate of 10-15%, even with treatment. 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, seizures and hearing loss.

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.

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 in a short period of time (a match) even though no common link was found between the two students. Since no common link was found, 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 be fully vaccinated against serogroup B meningococcal (MenB):

  • All current and incoming 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 two cases at Rutgers University–New Brunswick; however, any individual 16 through 23 years old can discuss the possibility of being vaccinated with their healthcare provider.

How can I help protect myself from contracting serogroup B meningococcal disease?

1.) Vaccination:

  • We strongly recommend all undergraduate students get vaccinated against serogroup B meningococcal disease.

2.) Practice Good Health Hygiene:

  • Don’t share glasses or water bottles, eating utensil or lip balm. Remember to always cover your cough, wash hands frequently and avoid drink from a common source like a punch bowl.

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

Didn’t I already get this vaccine?

Possibly not. The most common vaccine, which is already required for all undergraduate, graduate and transfer students who are in University housing, protects against four variations of the bacteria, known as types A, C, W and Y. The ACWY vaccine does not protect against meningitis type B, which is the type that caused the infections on the Rutgers University–New Brunswick campus.

What vaccines are available for serogroup B meningococcal disease?

There are 2 vaccines available that help protect against meningitis B; Bexsero® and Trumenba®.

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

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

Rutgers Student Health will be administering both Bexsero® and Trumenba® in the Health Centers and at on-campus vaccination clinics.

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

How can I get vaccinated?

Students may visit their private health care provider or local pharmacy. To confirm vaccine availability, enter your zip code in either the Bexsero or Trumenba vaccine locator:

www.bexsero.com/locator/index.html

www.trumenba.com/how-to-get-trumenba

Students may visit the Rutgers Student Health Centers at the following locations and times or go to one of the on-campus vaccination clinics.

Busch Livingston Health Center
110 Hospital Road
Monday – Thursday: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Friday: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

Cook Douglass Health Center
61 Dudley Road, Suite 150
Monday – Thursday: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Friday: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

Hurtado Health Center (College Avenue Campus)
Monday – Thursday: 8:30 am – 8:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Locations and hours can also be found at health.rutgers.edu/locations.

Appointments can be made using the online Patient Portal (nbstudenthealthportal.rutgers.edu) or by calling 848-932-7402.

Staff and faculty should contact their healthcare provider for information about vaccination.

In case of an emergency, call 911. It is extremely important that anyone with symptoms of meningococcal disease (e.g., rash, headache, stiff neck, fever) get evaluated as soon as possible. While meningococcal disease is treatable with antibiotics, treatment must be started quickly.

I heard I can’t get the vaccinations for meningitis ACWY and meningitis B on the same day. Is that true?

No. You can receive both meningitis vaccinations (ACWY and B) on the same day.

Are there side effects to the serogroup B meningococcal vaccines?

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 such as:

  • 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. If you have a serious reaction to the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine you should seek medical attention.

How effective are the vaccines?

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. Meningococcal B vaccinations are approved for short-term protection against serogroup meningococcal disease. This vaccine does not provide herd immunity.

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.

Is the vaccine covered by insurance?

Since our current situation has been classified as an outbreak setting, many insurance companies will cover the cost of the vaccine. However, you should confirm that with your insurance company.

What if I do not have health insurance I or my insurance does not cover the vaccine and I am among those recommended to receive vaccination?

Students without health insurance or whose insurance does not cover the vaccination can email Rutgers Student Health at vaccine@rutgers.edu for assistance.

How can I submit verification of receiving vaccination?

All Rutgers University-New Brunswick undergraduate students are required to either submit verification of receiving the vaccine series or complete an online declination form acknowledging the increased risk associated with the decision not to get vaccinated, including death and loss of limbs. Verification forms can be found here. The declination form can be found in the Rutgers Student Immunization Portal.

After each dose is received, the verification form should be uploaded AND dates of vaccination entered into the Rutgers Student Immunization Portal, https://rutgers.medicatconnect.com.

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 complete an online declination form in the Rutgers Immunization Portal. 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 should only complete 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 the verification form after each dose via the Rutgers Student Immunization Portal, https://rutgers.medicatconnect.com.
  • If you submit a declination form and then change your mind, that’s fine! You will still be able to receive the vaccination series.

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

I declined vaccination during the 2016 outbreak. Can I still get vaccinated?

Yes! Even if you declined during the 2016 outbreak, you can still get vaccinated for this current outbreak. If you submitted a declination for the current outbreak and change your mind, that’s fine. You can still get vaccinated and we strongly encourage you to do so.

I declined vaccination during the 2016 outbreak. Do I still need to submit something?

Your declination form from 2016 is not valid for the current outbreak. With this new outbreak, it is strongly recommended that you get vaccinated. Should you decide to again decline the MenB vaccination, you must complete and upload a declination form available on the Rutgers Immunization Portal.

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, you must complete the online declination form acknowledging the increased risk associated with you decision not to get vaccinated, including death and loss of limbs.

The declination form can be found in the Rutgers Immunization Portal.

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).

Vaccination is the best protection for yourself. You can help protect others by practicing good hygiene.

  • 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)