Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) is a contagious bacterial infection that can occur sporadically in healthy individuals. Symptoms are typically similar to other common diseases, which can result in delayed diagnosis and treatment until patients are critically ill. In the United States, IMD outbreaks are rare and unpredictable. During an outbreak, rapidly marshalling the personnel and monetary resources to respond is paramount to controlling disease spread. If a community lacks necessary resources for a quick and efficient outbreak response, the resulting economic cost can be overwhelming.
We developed a conceptual framework of activities implemented by universities, health departments, and community partners when responding to university-based IMD outbreaks. Next, cost data collected from public sources and interviews were applied to the conceptual framework to estimate the economic cost, both direct and indirect, of a university-based IMD outbreak. We used data from two recent university outbreaks in Oregon as case studies.
Findings indicate a university-based IMD outbreak response relies on coordination between health care providers/insurers, university staff, media, government, and volunteers, along with many other community members. The estimated economic cost was $12.3 million, inclusive of the cost of vaccines ($7.35 million). Much of the total cost was attributable to wrongful death and indirect costs (e.g., productivity loss resulting from death). Understanding the breadth of activities and the economic cost of such a response may inform budgeting for future outbreak preparedness and development of alternative strategies to prevent and/or control IMD.