Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord that can be caused by viruses or, in this case, by the potentially life-threatening bacterium Neisseria Meningitidis. The mortality rate for this infection is 10 to 15 percent; 20 percent of survivors have permanent disabilities. The germ spreads by coughs and sneezes, especially in close quarters like a dormitory or camp. Meningococcus type B is especially common in Oregon.
The meningococcal A, C, W and Y (Menactra) is recommended for all children at ages 11 and 16 years. Meningococcal B vaccine series can be given to 18 year olds. This polysaccharide vaccine prevents some, but not all, serotypes of meningococcus. Side effects are mostly local reactions of the skin and low-grade fever.