Call for Help

Meningococcal Disease

How do meningococcal bacteria spread?

The meningococcal bacteria are spread by exchanging secretions with an infected person – like sharing drinks and eating utensils, or kissing.

This means those who are at an increased risk of getting sick include:

  • Roommates
  • Anyone who has had direct contact with the patient’s oral secretions, like a romantic partner

Fortunately, meningococcal bacteria are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19.  This disease is not spread through the air, in food or water, or by casual contact in bathrooms, classrooms, restaurants, bars, or other social settings.

What should I do if I’m experiencing symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms of meningococcal disease, including a high fever, please make an appointment at UHS.


  • High fever (greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Severe headache
  • Neck stiffness
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light)
  • Altered mental state (confusion)
  • Rashes

Is meningococcemia the same as meningitis?

Both meningococcemia and meningitis are caused by the bacteria  Neisseria meningitidis. Both illnesses also have similar symptoms. However, the bacteria are infecting different parts of the body.   

Meningococcemia is when the bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply, damaging the walls of the blood vessels.  Meningitis is when the bacteria infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord and cause swelling.  When someone is infected with meningococcal bacteria, they may present with either illness.  


A vaccine is available that offers protection against some, but not all, strains of the bacteria. Immunization will reduce the overall risk of developing invasive meningococcal disease by about 65%.

To comply with Wisconsin law [SS 36.25(46)], students who live in a residence hall must report whether or not they have received vaccinations against meningococcal disease and hepatitis B. You can fulfill this requirement by completing your online Immunization and Health History Form at MyUHS. If you have questions about these vaccines, please talk to your health care provider.