• Mayo Clinic Minute: Meningitis prevention for college students

College living puts students in close quarters and increases their risk for contagious illnesses like bacterial meningitis.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:00) is in the downloads. Read the script.

"Sharing straws, sharing beverages, sharing toothbrushes, cigarettes – all of those types of things can be a risk," says Dr. Marie Grill, a Mayo Clinic neurologist. "In addition, coughing, sneezing, kissing are also ways that the disease can be spread."

Dr. Grill says bacterial meningitis inflames the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord and creates symptoms that include headache, neck stiffness, fever and nausea. It’s a serious illness that can be deadly if left untreated.

"Vaccination is key with respect to bacterial meningitis," Dr. Grill stresses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two rounds of booster shots: one in preteen years, around 11 or 12 years old, and another at 16.

"Certainly, if the vaccine was received before the age of 16, then it should be given again before your kids go off to college, just because the immunity does wane over time," says Dr. Grill.

Related articles