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Public health management of an outbreak of group C meningococcal disease in university campus residents

ALISON ROUND, MEIRION R. EVANS, ROLAND L. SALMON, IAN K. HOSEIN, ARUN K. MUKERJEE, R. WILLIAM J. SMITH, STEPHEN R. PALMER
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/11.4.431 431-436 First published online: 1 December 2001

Abstract

Background: Increasing numbers of outbreaks of Group C meningococcal disease in teenagers and young adults led to a new policy in the UK in 1999 of vaccinating all new college students. The largest of these outbreaks involved seven students in one university, six of whom were from one hall of residence, and two of whom died. Methods: Control of the outbreak involved close medical surveillance of resident students, mass chemoprophylaxis and vaccination, and wide dissemination of daily information bulletins. Investigation of the epidemiology of the outbreak involved searching for the network of close contacts between cases, a prevalence survey of carriage of meningogocci and a case control study of risk factors for carriage. Results: Clinical cases could be linked by a discrete network of social contacts within the halls of residence, but the Group C epidemic strain (2a P1.5) was not detected in 454 students (upper 95% confidence interval 0.7%). Carriage of any meningococcal strain (19%) was associated with partronage of the campus bar (OR = 3.0, 0.99–9.1). Conclusion: Important factors in the control of the outbreak were rapid institution of mass chemopropylaxis and immunisation of residents, and involvement of student organizations in the dissemination of information about the disease and its control. The role of campus bars in dissemination of the carriage of meningogocci deserves further investigation.

  • control
  • epidemiology
  • meningococcal disease
  • outbreak