Emergency doses of a meningitis vaccine may be on their way to Princeton University in an effort to halt an outbreak that has infected seven students there this year, even though the drug isn't approved for use in the United States.
Health officials said on Friday that they will import Bexsero, a vaccine approved only in Europe and Australia, but not in the U.S., that protects against meningitis B, NBC News reported.
"This is a bad disease, and we know how devastating it is," Dr. Thomas Clark, acting head of the Centers for Disease Control's meningitis and vaccine preventable diseases branch, told NBC News. "A lot of us had a gut feeling that there would be more cases and we should get the ball rolling."
As many as 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students at the Ivy League school could be inoculated to stymie the spread of the illness, which is a dangerous infection of the protective membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. The infection kills 10 percent of teens and young adults who get it, according to NBC News.
The university has been working with CDC officials to stop the spread of the disease. In October, the CDC submitted an investigational new drug application, or IND, to have the vaccine imported after a fifth student fell ill. Since then, two more students have been diagnosed. The latest case was uncovered on Sunday.
The drug will be approved for use in Princeton community only because of the seriousness of the outbreak, Clark told NBC News. Clark said the vaccine is regarded as safe, and the IND does not imply that it's an experimental vaccine.
Three of the cases involved students living in campus dorms, according to NJ.com. Six of the infected students have recovered from the illness. The seventh student is recovering.
In September, the school distributed red cups with the message "Mine. Not Yours" to encourage students to not share their drinks as a way to curb the spread of meningitis, which is spread from person to person by contact, kissing or coughing.