Nightly News   |  November 16, 2013

Meningitis outbreak strikes Princeton

Meningitis has sickened six students and one visitor at Princeton University.  School officials now want approval to use a vaccine that’s not yet legal in the U.S. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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>>> increasing sense of urgency to stop the spread of a potentially deadly disease on the campus of one of the country's top universities. this year seven people at princeton university , all but one student, have been sickened by a rare case of meningitis. the latest was diagnosed this sunday. officials are trying to get the okay from the federal government to begin vac nating others against the disease. that's proving not as easy as it sounds and nbc's kristen dahlgren joins frus princeton , new jersey, to explain.

>> reporter: good evening, lester. saturday night after a big homecoming win here there are a lot of people on campus in tight quarters. the university is concerned enough they are considering administering a vaccine still not approved in the u.s. homecoming weekend at princeton . but there is more to worry about than whether the tigers beat yale. a potentially deadly strain of meningitis is spreading across campus. six students and one visitor siened since march.

>> people are thinking about it. i had a friend who had a fever yesterday and went to the health center .

>> i was home briefly last weekend. my mom sent me back with six hand sanitizer bottles.

>> reporter: students in dorms are required to have a vaccine but it doesn't cover the rare meningitis b strain at princeton .

>> in young adults in the united states meningitis b is very unusual. this is a distinctive circumstance.

>> reporter: the cdc is importing bexsero, a vaccine licens in europe andustral t noyet in the u.s. the university is meeting with trustees this weekend to the decide if it willake the vaccine available. something manyaren suppor

>> i it's been approved in europe . that's fantastic. they should do it.

>> reporter: you wouldn't have a problem?

>> i would definitely have them have it.

>> reporter: chris christie was seen at the game today. his son is a student and member of the baseball team . new jersey's health department said it is working closely with princeton and the cdc. according to the cdc, all strains of meningitis are deadly in 10 to the 15% of cases. lynn's son evan died in meningitis at 20 in 1998 .

>> my life will never be the same.

>> reporter: she's now president of the national meningitis association.

>> the disease is only spread through close contact. that's the exchange of respiratory secretions such as coughing, kissing, sneezing.

>> reporter: princeton sent e-mails to students reminding them they can contract meningitis if they come in contact with a carrier. urging students not to share things like drinking glasses.

>> are you hanging onto that.

>> i have my cup. i want to write my name on it for that matter.

>> reporter: one student is still in the hospital here. the university says not to expect its the decision on administering the vaccine before monday. it would only be given to students here. there really aren't concerns of it spreading beyond campus.

>> for more on this we are joined by dr. mika roberson, assistant chief medical officer at care point health in hoboken, new jersey. thanks for joining us. we understand this is a rare strain but it's moving slowly. seven cases in eight months. how concerned should students and parents be?

>> students should be very concerned. parents should be concerned. seven cases in six months is not a normal epidemic. it seems as though there must be a carrier on campus. that's why getting all the children vaccinated is important.

>> let's talk about the vaccine. not approved in the u.s. assuming they go forward, how effective is it?

>> the effectiveness in europe and australia now is about 73%. the concerning part is that the strain is the meningitis type b. we're not sure if what's going on now at princeton is the same strain they made the vaccine for in europe . so that is a concern that we could vaccinate the children and it won't be effective for