Context The number of meningococcal outbreaks on college
campuses have been increasing in the past few years. However, no
published studies have documented the incidence of invasive
meningococcal infection in college students or whether the incidence is
higher than in the general population of the same age.
Objective To compare the incidence of invasive meningococcal
infection in Maryland college students with that of the general
population of the same age.
Design Retrospective cohort study.
Setting and Patients Maryland residents with meningococcal
infection from 1992-1997 identified from active, laboratory-based,
statewide surveillance for invasive meningococcal disease.
Main Outcome Measures Incidence of invasive meningococcal
Results Of 228 patients with invasive meningococcal infection, 67
were aged 16 to 30 years; 11 and 3 of these attended Maryland 4- and
2-year colleges, respectively. Of these, 12 (86%) had infection caused
by Neisseria meningitidis serogroups included in the current
meningococcal vaccine. The average annual incidence was 1.74 per
100,000 among students in 4-year schools vs 1.44 per
100,000 for the general population of the same age
(P=.60). Among students in 4-year schools, the
incidence was 3.24 per 100,000 in on-campus residents vs 0.96
per 100,000 in off-campus residents (relative risk, 3.4; 95%
confidence interval, 1.0-11.6; P=.05).
Conclusions The incidence of meningococcal infection in college
students is similar to the incidence in the general population of the
same age, but college students residing on campus appear to be at
higher risk than those residing off campus.