Princeton Clears Crisis Management Hurdle in Meningitis Outbreak

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    University shows how fast you can find a solution if the need is dire

    A meningitis outbreak is stirring up concern among Princeton students, faculty, and their families. This isn’t your typical meningitis C, but the far more dangerous bacterial meningitis, which actually kills at least 1 in 10 once contracted.

    Simple solution, right? Vaccinate the faculty and student body, spend whatever’s needed to give those who did come down sick the care they need and you should be okay. Well, except for one thing…there is no bacterial meningitis vaccine approved for use in the U.S.

    What’s the plan, then? NBC News reports:

    Princeton University students could get an imported vaccine as early as December to stop the spread of a potentially deadly meningitis outbreak that has sickened seven since March, school officials said Monday.

    Under the plan, all undergraduate students, graduate students living in dormitories, and members of the university community with certain vulnerable conditions would be advised to receive vaccinations to protect against serogroup B meningitis, which is missing from the shots already recommended for U.S. college students.

    The move follows a request by the Centers for Disease Control in October to import emergency doses of the vaccine Bexsero, made by Novartis, and approved in Europe and Australia, but not in the U.S.

    “Pending final CDC approval, the University is prepared to accept these recommendations and make arrangements to provide access to this vaccine as soon as possible,” Princeton officials said in a statement.

    Other universities, schools and really anywhere that houses or provides services to large numbers of people should take note of this case for use in their own future crisis management. You may not face an outbreak of bacterial meningitis, but you very well could encounter a health risk for which there is no available, or no known, prevention tool. In such a case, your prior preparation could literally mean the difference between life and death.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]