Meningitis Type B Outbreak at Oregon State University

(March 3, 2017) A third case of Type B meningitis has been confirmed at Oregon State University. Combined with two cases in November 2016, this cluster of cases now meet the criteria of an outbreak at OSU’s Corvallis campus.

There are no current cases of meningitis B at the University of Oregon. However, because of interactions between students at the two universities, it is important that UO students be aware of how meningitis B is spread, and what the symptoms are.

what you need to know about meningitis

What is Meningitis?

brain and spine Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, but can also be caused by physical injury, cancer or certain drugs.

What Causes Meningitis?

Neisseria meningitidis is a bacterium that causes meningitis and other serious infections. There are nine subtypes that have been frequently associated with meningococcal disease. Type B causes approximately 55 percent of the cases in Oregon and was suspected to be the cause of the 2015 UO outbreak of meningococcal disease.

What are the Symptoms?

Meningococcal disease can progress rapidly, and early symptoms are not easily recognized and are difficult to distinguish from other more common infections like the flu. These symptoms include:

tired woman holding neck

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff Neck
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Rash

Students who notice these symptoms (in themselves, friends, or others) should contact the University Health Center at 541-346-2770.

If the symptoms are unusually sudden or severe, they should consider going directly to a local emergency room.

Some people are carriers of the bacteria and show no symptoms. The disease is unpredictable, and no one really knows all the reasons why some carriers become sick while others do not.

How is Meningitis Spread?

Meningitis is generally transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact, such as sharing drinks or kissing. Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as the common cold or the flu. In order for the illness to spread, a person would need to have close contact with the patient for several hours in a seven-day period.

Is There a Vaccine?

There are two Type B vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and 2015, as well as several FDA approved 4-strain (MCV4) vaccines that have been available for many years. Many people have already received a 4-strain vaccine as adolescents. The newer subtype B vaccines complement the 4-strain vaccine. If you have questions about vaccination, please contact either the health center or your primary physician.

How Can I Prevent the Spread of Meningitis?

water bottle, kitchen utensils, cup, toothbrushes Get vaccinated.


  • drinking glasses/cups
  • water bottles
  • utensils
  • toothbrushes
  • cosmetics
  • cigarettes/e-cigarettes/hookah

Don’t drink out of a common source such as a punch bowl.

Cough into a sleeve or tissue.

Know that kissing poses a risk.

Wash and sanitize your hands often.


CDC: Meningitis
CDC: Meningococcal disease

page updated 3/9/17