Background: Meningococcal disease is a serious problem in adolescents, including high school students. Universal immunization of adolescents with meningococcal conjugate vaccine was recently recommended. We studied risk factors for meningococcal disease in students in grades 9-12.
Methods: This was a matched case-control study using surveillance for meningococcal disease in students in grades 9-12 in sites throughout the United States. For each case-patient, up to 4 controls were selected from the home room classroom. All subjects answered an extensive questionnaire. Logistic regression was performed to identify risk factors associated with meningococcal disease. Meningococcal isolates were characterized.
Results: Of 69 eligible patients, 49 (71%) were enrolled and had at least 1 control. Isolates were available for 59 (86%) cases. Attending at least 1 barbeque or picnic [matched odds ratio (MOR): 0.26, P value = 0.003] or school dance (MOR: 0.30, P = 0.04) were independently associated with decreased risk of meningococcal disease. Male gender (MOR: 2.94, P = 0.009), upper respiratory infection symptoms (MOR: 2.43, P = 0.04), marijuana use (MOR: 4.21, P = 0.009), and nightclub/disco attendance (MOR: 3.30, P = 0.04) were associated with increased risk. Among 54 students not from Oregon (where serogroup B strains predominate) with available serogroup, 38 (73.1%) cases were potentially vaccine preventable: 18 (34.6%) serogroup C, 19 (36.5%) serogroup Y, and 1 (1.9%) serogroup W-135.
Conclusions: Certain behaviors increase the risk of meningococcal infection, whereas others are associated with decreased risk. Most meningococcal disease in high school students can be prevented if recommendations on use of meningococcal conjugate vaccine are implemented.