College students most at risk of deadly meningitis B infection, report finds

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By Linda Carroll

College students are far more likely than others to develop a rare, but potentially deadly, type of bacterial infection, a new study shows.

Students between the ages of 18 and 24 were three and a half times more likely than non-college kids to develop an infection from meningococcus B, which can lead to a life-threatening blood disease, according to the report published Monday in Pediatrics. While there is a vaccine against MenB, few teens and young adults receive it, since it is not one of the immunizations currently recommended for all teens heading into college.

“Although the incidence of MenB is low, it is a serious illness and parents should be aware that a vaccine is available and that it’s something they can talk to their child’s physician about to see if it makes sense to get the vaccine,” said the study’s lead author, pediatrician Dr. Sarah Mbaeyi, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A vaccine for the four other types of meningococcus (MenACWY) is already recommended for all teens, by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts that develop immunization recommendations.