Why college campuses get hit by meningitis outbreaks

Thursday, November 21, 2013

For the past nine months, Princeton University in New Jersey has been trying to halt an outbreak of bacterial meningitis in its students without success. So it's going to offer students a vaccine that's not yet approved for broader use in the US.

Since bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord that can cause brain damage and death, having it on campus is no small matter.

The situation in Princeton, where six students and a visiting student have fallen ill, got us thinking — why do meningitis outbreaks seem to happen most often on college campuses? We asked Dr. Thomas Clark, a meningitis expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to tell us why that happens. Here's the conversation, edited for length and clarity.

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