The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that the Yale college student with probable meningitis tested positive for serogroup B meningococcal disease.
In a Friday campus-wide email, Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin said that the suspected diagnosis of the student, who was admitted to Yale-New Haven Hospital last Thursday after headaches and vomiting, was confirmed. According to Calhoun College Master Julia Adams, the student has been discharged from YNHH and is showing signs of improvement. In the campus-wide email, Genecin confirmed that there have been no further cases of meningitis on campus so far. Given that serogroup B meningococcal disease normally occurs sporadically, a single case does not necessarily indicate an outbreak, he noted in his email.
In the email, Genecin also said that Yale Health will soon begin offering a vaccine to protect against serogroup B meningococcal meningitis.
“I am happy to report that the student is making excellent progress,” Genecin said. “[A] single case does not mean there is an outbreak on campus.”
When the patient’s symptoms became indicative of meningitis, the University worked with the local and state health departments to track down those who had been in contact with the student since Jan 26., when she was first contagious. The majority of those who have been in close contact with the student — and thus are at increased risk of contracting serogroup B meningitis — have taken Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic that prevents the disease.
However, the University is now offering all members of the Yale community a new vaccine against serogroup B meningococcal disease. In his email, Genecin noted that while Connecticut state law requires that students in residential settings be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, the current vaccine recommended by the CDC does not protect against serogroup B meningococcal disease and only against four serogroups of meningitis: A, C, W135 and Y, which make up 70 percent of cases in the United States, according to the CDC.
The new form of the vaccine, which will require two inoculations at least a month apart, was previously offered free of charge at Princeton University in 2014. Yale will only be providing the vaccine at zero cost to those with Yale Health Hospitalization/Specialty coverage and employees insured by Yale Health. Those without these insurance packages, including students on basic coverage, will have to use their private insurance to pay for it, or pay $256.00 — the full out-of-pocket cost.
Because the University has only had one case of serogroup B meningitis, campus, federal, state and local health officials are not recommending mass vaccinations.
However, Lynn Bozof, president of the National Meningitis Association (NMA) said in an interview with the news, that all adolescents, including college students, should get the new serogroup B meningococcal disease vaccine.
Bozof lost her son to Meningitis in 1988 when he was a college junior at Georgia Southwestern State University and the current recommended vaccines for serogroups A, C, W and Y meningitis were not mandated for college enrollment in their state.
“No parent should lose a child to a potentially vaccinate-preventable disease,” she said. “[The NMA] wants the CDC to recommend the B vaccine to adolescents, like they do for the the A, [C, W and Y].”
Bozof, whose son was unwell for 26 days before suffering 10 grand mal seizures — leading to violent muscle spasms and unconsciousness — and being declared brain dead, was a pitcher for his college baseball team and a premedical student. At the time, the CDC had not yet recommended the vaccine to college students, even though they are at higher risk of contracting the disease.
At Providence College, about 3,000 students have been vaccinated against serogroup B meningococcal meningitis since Sunday. The move came after a second case of meningitis occurred on campus. At Princeton, eight cases of meningitis occurred before the University imported Bexsero — a vaccine only approved in Europe and Australia at the time — and made it freely available for students. Bexsero was later approved by the FDA in Jan. 2015.
Yale Health has ordered the vaccine and will begin providing it to anyone in the Yale community on Tuesday, Feb. 17.
Correction, Feb. 13: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Bexsero was provided to Providence College students. In fact, Trumenba was provided. Furthermore, a previous version of this stated article that the vaccine for serogroup A was not legally required in 1988. In fact, the combined vaccine for serogroups A, C, W and Y, was not legally required.