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Am Fam Physician. 2001;64(1):158-160

In the past decade, there has been an increase in the incidence of meningococcal disease in persons 15 to 24 years of age. In a 1992 to 1996 survey, the fatality rate for serogroup C meningococcal disease in this population was 14 percent. The highest incidence of disease is during a child's first year of life, but it increases again in 15- to 24-year-olds. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases reviewed the risk of meningococcal disease to college students and provided recommendations for immunizations in this population.

Meningococcal vaccination is rarely associated with serious adverse events and has been shown to prevent at least 60 percent of cases. Antimicrobial chemoprophylaxis is therefore recommended for close contacts of persons with meningococcal disease, regardless of the contacts' immunization status.

Students who will be living in dormitories should be informed of their increased risk of meningococcal disease and the potential benefits and limitations of immunization. Immunization is not recommended (although it is not contraindicated) for students who will not be living in dormitories because they do not have a similarly increased risk of meningococcal disease. Routine re-immunization of college students who were immunized as freshmen is not indicated, but in students who were immunized three to five years previously or who may be considered to be in high-risk groups (such as those traveling to geographic areas with hyperendemic or epidemic meningococcal disease) re-immunization is recommended. These recommendations are similar to the recommendations of the American College Health Association and are based on evidence obtained from a case-control study and expert opinion.

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Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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