Each year many Americans start their spring by turning their attention to the March Madness basketball tournament. Unfortunately, for many of National Meningitis Association’s (NMA) Moms on Meningitis (M.O.M.) and Together Educating About Meningitis (T.E.A.M.) members, March is a time when we remember those we lost to meningococcal disease. In fact, while meningococcal disease can strike at any time of year, the number of cases peaks in the winter and early spring.
N.M.A. board member, Leslie Maier lost her son Chris on March 2nd
M.O.M. Judy Miller lost her daughter Beth on March 12th
The higher incidence of meningococcal disease in March can be seen in the headlines of the last few years. In March 2014, a Drexel University student died after visiting Princeton University, which was nearing the end of an outbreak that impacted eight students. In 2015, the University of Oregon was battling an outbreak of meningococcal disease with two additional cases appearing in March. In 2016, students at both Penn State and Rutgers University were hospitalized with meningococcal disease in March. This year there were cases on three college campuses by mid-March: Wake Forest University, Old Dominion University, and Oregon State University. There has also been an outbreak, at an elementary school in Virginia.
To rise to the challenge of this other recurring “March Madness”, we must increase our efforts to raise awareness of meningococcal disease and its prevention. There are two kinds of vaccines that students need to be protected from meningococcal disease, the MenACWY vaccine and the MenB vaccine.
It’s important that students remain vigilant and be able to recognize the symptoms of meningococcal disease including headache, fever, stiff neck, and a purplish rash, so that you can promptly seek medical attention.
This March, let’s get on the ball and take “both shots” to prevent the other March Madness.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Meningococcal Disease” Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe S, eds. 13th ed. PHF, 2015 (pp. 231-243).