Office for Student Affairs > Boynton Health

Boynton Health ServiceBoynton Health Service

Health Information


Meningitis is a disease that can quickly cause permanent injury, including brain damage, hearing loss, loss of limbs, kidney failure, or death. College students are at higher risk for contracting meningitis due to their age and community setting.

University of Minnesota students are encouraged to receive a meningitis vaccine through Boynton’s Immunization Clinic or from your healthcare provider before coming to campus. Most insurance plans cover meningitis vaccinations for students but check with your insurance plan for coverage details.

Cause and Transmission

Meningitis is caused by an infection to the brain and spinal cord area. This infection causes inflammation of these areas’ protective membranes, called meninges.

There are five forms of meningitis, but college students face the most serious risk from bacterial meningitis. Transmission is most likely to occur by contact with a sick person’s oral secretions (i.e. kissing or sharing a glass) or through prolonged contact with a sick person in the same living area. Some healthy people can be carriers of bacterial meningitis but not become sick themselves.

Symptoms of Meningococcal Meningitis

The rapid onset of meningococcal disease can cause an individual to become ill, very quickly. The most common symptoms include high fever (>101°F) , severe headache, neck stiffness, and confusion. Vomiting or rashes may also occur.

Contact your doctor immediately if you think you have been exposed to someone with meningitis.

Meningitis is treatable with antibiotics, but treatment should begin as soon as possible. The disease may result in severe shock or death in a matter of hours.

Preventing the Spread of Meningitis

Vaccination will reduce your risk of getting bacterial meningitis by about 65% which is a significant reduction of risk. As with other infectious diseases avoiding close contact with bodily fluids from other people will reduce risk. Drinking out of the same container as other people is an excellent example of a mechanism of transmission for diseases such as meningitis or influenza.

Who Should Be Vaccinated

Boynton Health, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all University first-years be vaccinated against meningitis, especially those living in a residence hall. All University students under the age of 21 are welcome to receive the vaccine at Boynton Health if they would like to reduce their risk of contracting meningitis. If you are over 21 you should consult with a health care provider about other risks that may indicate being vaccinated. If you were vaccinated before the age of 16 and under the age of 21 you should receive a booster to improve the effectiveness of your immunization.

Vaccine Effectiveness

The meningococcal vaccination has some limitations, it covers the strains of meningitis that account for 90% of the infections that occur in the US.

Meningitis Outbreaks

An outbreak of meningitis is defined as three or more cases identified in an area within one month. Outbreaks are very rare but should an outbreak occur the University will work closely with local and state health departments to provide preventive antibiotics for individuals who may have had contact with the infected patient and determine if mass immunizations to prevent the further spread of the disease is indicated.

Make an appointment with Boynton’s Immunization Clinic to get your vaccine by calling 612-625-8400.

Common Searches

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs
Birth Control
Colds and Flu
Eating Disorders
Ear Wax
Emergency Contraception
Lyme Disease
Sexual Health
Smoking Cessation
Urinary Tract Infections

External Resources

Meningococcal Disease
More on Meningococcal Disease

Boynton Health

410 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN, 55455

P: 612-625-8400 | F: 612-625-1434