Recent Meningitis Cases in Florida: What to Know

Photo Credit: CDC

A concurrent outbreak and cluster of meningitis cases have led to at least 44 cases across the state of Florida. While cases in the outbreak have appeared primarily among members of the men who have sex with men community and the cluster of cases among college students at one university1, anyone can get meningitis. Here are five things you need to know and the actions you should consider taking.

Who is affected by the current cases of meningitis?

The current outbreak and cluster of meningitis cases has included two different serogroups of the disease – serogroup B and serogroup C, and is impacting the following groups, for whom CDC is recommending two different meningitis vaccination considerations based on risk group1.

* College and university undergraduate students in Leon County, FL* May receive meningitis B vaccination1

* Men who have sex with men (MSM) living in or traveling to Florida (with or without HIV)* Should receive meningitis ACWY vaccination1

Meningitis ACWY (MenACWY) vaccination is also routinely recommended for 11-12-year-olds with a booster at age 16.2

Should college students in other counties/states receive meningitis B vaccination?

* CDC recommends meningitis B (MenB) vaccination for adolescents and young adults aged 16-23 years (preferably ages 16-18) based on a discussion between a healthcare provider and the patient/parent/guardian.3,4

* Colleges are environments prone to the spread of MenB: From 2011 through March 2019, MenB caused all U.S. college meningococcal outbreaks, which involved 13 campuses, 50 cases, and 2 deaths among an at-risk population of approximately 253,000 students.5

* Meningitis B vaccination has only been available since 2014, and seven out of ten 17-year-olds in the U.S. had not received one dose of meningitis B vaccination as of 2020.6,7

* Parents of high school and college students should check their child’s vaccination records and ask their healthcare provider about meningitis B vaccination.

There’s more than one ‘kind’ of meningitis

Meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis, is caused by bacteria carried in the nose or back of the throat that can spread through respiratory secretions, saliva and close contact. There are five vaccine-preventable serogroups – A, C, W, Y and B, and two different vaccinations needed to help protect against them, one for Meningitis ACWY and one for Meningitis B.2,6,8

Signs and symptoms

Early symptoms of meningitis may be similar to those of the flu but can progress rapidly. Symptoms can include fever, headache, and stiff neck as well as nausea, vomiting, rash, sensitivity to light and confusion.9,10,11

Because meningitis may initially present with flu-like symptoms, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish its diagnosis from the flu or other viral illnesses.9

The best way to help protect yourself is through vaccination

Vaccination against meningitis is your best defense against the disease, according to the CDC.12 Those interested in helping to protect themselves or their college students against meningitis ACWY and meningitis B can find vaccination by getting in touch with their health care providers, pharmacy, local health department or community health center. For more information visit