Princeton University has seen seven people hospitalized in the last eight months with bacterial meningitis—specifically, a strain of the disease that the vaccine commonly administered in the US doesn't fight. And now the school is taking the unusual step of offering its students a European- and Australian-approved vaccine, Bexsero, that safeguards against serogroup B—and hasn't been approved by the FDA. The CDC has gotten permission from the FDA to import Bexsero, and the New York Times reports that university officials yesterday decided to administer free and voluntary injections to students beginning early next month.
"Usually, when you see this kind of meningitis on the campus, it's meningitis C," an expert tells CNN of the disease, which can kill within hours and takes the lives of about 500 Americans each year. (A male student diagnosed 10 days ago remains hospitalized, but the other six have recovered.) The B strain is more likely to affect infants than young adults, leading the expert to call it "very, very unusual." The disease can spread through close contact, such as sharing drinks, kissing, or living together, the Times notes. So are students avoiding getting cozy? "Maybe it's something people think about during the day," says one, who notes she no longer uses her rugby teammates' water bottles. "But it’s not something they’re thinking about on a Saturday night."