Meningococcal carriage, alcohol consumption, and campus bar patronage in a serogroup C meningococcal disease outbreak.


Community outbreaks of serogroup C invasive meningococcal disease are increasing in North America (L. H. Harrison, JAMA 273:419-421, 1995; L. A. Jackson, A. Schuchat, M. W. Reeves, and J. D. Wenger, JAMA 273:382-389, 1995; C. M. Whalen, J. C. Hockin, A. Ryan, and F. Ashton, JAMA 273:390-394). In a recent 15-month university outbreak, disease was linked to patronage of a specific campus-area bar, suggesting that aspects of a campus bar environment might promote meningococcal transmission (P. B. Imrey, L. A. Jackson, P. H. Ludwinski, et al., Am. J. Epidemiol., in press). To investigate this hypothesis, oropharyngeal carriage results from samples taken from 867 university health service clients and 85 campus-area bar employees during the last 3 months of the outbreak were analyzed to determine factors correlated with carriage of any strain of Neisseria meningitidis. Results were validated with data from samples from 344 health center clients and 211 campus bar employees taken 8 months after the last outbreak case. Recent alcohol consumption (adjusted prevalence odds ratio = 3.8 for > 15 versus 0 drinks in last week [P = 0.0012]) and campus bar patronage (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9 for any versus no patronage in last 2 weeks [P = 0.0122]) showed separate effects in both univariate and multiple logistic regression analyses of data from the 1992 health center clients. Prevalence of meningococcal carriage among 1992 campus bar workers was 3.8 times that among health center clients; this prevalence ratio was roughly 2.5 after adjustment for alcohol consumption and bar patronage. Recent antibiotic usage was protective (prevalence odds ratio = 0.3) among health center clients and bar workers. These findings were generally supported by the validation samples. If alcohol consumption and other aspects of the campus bar environment facilitate transmission of and/or colonization by N. meningitidis, then the introduction of a highly pathogenic substrain into the campus bar environment may provide an unusual opportunity for invasive meningococcal disease within a campus community.

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