Students at Minnesota State University – Mankato and other area colleges have been on campus for more than a week, and Mankato’s high schools are back in session Tuesday and a Mayo Clinic expert is warning of the risks of meningitis and the benefits of a vaccination to prevent it.

Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Marie Grill said it’s caused by a bacteria that inflames the brain and spinal cord and can be transmitted in several ways, including, “Sharing straws, sharing beverages, sharing toothbrushes, cigarettes – all of those types of things can be a risk. In addition, coughing, sneezing, kissing are also ways that the disease can be spread.”

It’s a serious illness that can be deadly if left untreated and, “Vaccination is key with respect to bacterial meningitis,” Dr. Grill stressed.

She explained, “Certainly, if the vaccine was received before the age of 16, then it should be given again before your kids go off to college, just because the immunity does wane over time,

The CDC recommends two rounds of booster shots: one in preteen years, around 11 or 12 years old, and another at 16.