Meningitis FAQ for Campus Events
Updated February 6, 2015
Note to campus visitors from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
We recognize that when cases of meningococcal disease occur, there is increased concern about the potential spread of disease and desire to take appropriate steps to prevent additional cases. There is no evidence that family members and the community are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease from casual contact with students, faculty, or staff at institutions experiencing outbreaks. Therefore, CDC does not recommend limiting social interactions or canceling travel plans as a preventive measure for meningococcal disease. Instead, we continue to recommend that people remain vigilant to the symptoms of meningococcal disease and seek treatment immediately if they experience any of those symptoms.
Additionally, there is no evidence that says you are at risk of catching the infection by touching surfaces like doorknobs or keyboards. A small number of the bacteria may survive for a few hours on surfaces, but most die quickly. However, hand washing and covering your cough or sneeze are good hygiene practices to follow.
Questions and Answers
Q: Should I avoid attending events on the Providence College campus or visiting the College?
A: No. The CDC and state health officials have not recommended cancelling or curtailing planned activities or events on the PC campus. There is no recommendation for the surrounding community or visitors to avoid contact with Providence College or with Providence College students. The CDC and state health officials are aware of the types of activities and events associated with Reunions.
Q: Will the College cancel events or activities on campus?
A: No. The CDC and state health official recommend that activities on the PC campus continue as planned.
Q: Is bacterial meningitis contagious?
A: Bacterial meningitis is contagious, but generally is transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact, such as sharing drinks, smoking materials, cosmetics, and kissing. Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.
Q: Can visitors stay in dorms or residence halls?
A: According to the CDC, overnight visits with undergraduates in a dormitory should not on its own pose an increased risk to the visitor. Visitors should be vigilant about not sharing cups, utensils, smoking materials, cosmetics, etc. Since the meningitis bacteria do not survive on surfaces, there is no risk of exposure from sleeping on mattresses, using bathrooms, touching elevator buttons, etc. in dormitories.
Q: Should I cancel plans to bring my young children to campus events?
A: Casual contact with students, staff or faculty at institutions experiencing outbreaks does not increase risk for meningococcal disease. Bacterial meningitis is transmitted only through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact. We recommend that you consult with your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns.
Q: Should pregnant women avoid campus events?
A: Pregnant women are advised to take the same precautions as other visitors to campus and avoid those behaviors that can increase the risk of transmission, such as sharing drinks, smoking materials, cosmetics, and kissing. Please consult with your personal physician if you have concerns.
Q: Should I take antibiotics before going to Providence College for an event or activity?
A: No. There is no recommendation to take antibiotics before attending events or activities at Providence College. Only people who have been in close contact with a suspect or confirmed case of meningococcal need to be considered for preventive treatment.
Q: Is the College taking any special precautions to avoid the spread of meningitis during Reunions or Parent Weekends?
A: Per the advice of the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC, the College will:
- Avoid open punch bowls and open ice dispensers.
- Provide ample disposable cups and ample waste collection containers.
- Place alcohol hand gel around event sites.
- Post signs reminding individuals about how meningitis is spread and what to do if someone feels sick.
Q: I am not a member of the College community, but I participate in campus events and interact with students. Am I eligible to receive the vaccine?
A: In October 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a meningitis B vaccine, Trumenba, made by Pfizer. This vaccine requires three doses – initial, second dose after two months, third dose after six months. In January 2015, the FDA approved Bexsero, the meningitis B vaccine by Novartis. This vaccine requires two doses, spaced at least one month apart.
While both vaccines are licensed for individuals ages 10 through 25, medical experts have not yet made recommendations as to whom should receive them. Thus, while all physicians have access to the vaccines, not all will have it in stock.
Q: Are the cases of meningitis at University of California-Santa Barbara and Princeton related to the outbreak at Providence? How do you know?
A: No, the cases are not related. While the cases at both the University of California-Santa Barbara and Princeton involve serogroup B meningococcal bacteria, the genetic strains of the bacteria are not the same.