Meningococcal disease is caused by an infection that affects the meninges. The meninges is the protective membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. A bacterial infection of the meninges, called
, can cause death within hours. This bacteria can also cause infections in the blood.
The disease is most common in: Infants aged less than 1 year oldPeople aged 16-21 years oldPeople with certain medical conditionsCommunity settings where large groups of people gather, such as college dorms or military bases
About 1,200 people in the US develop the disease each year. Approximately 10%-15% of these people die. Another 11%-19% lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have nervous system problems, or suffer
Symptoms of meningitis include: High feverHeadacheVery stiff, sore neckNauseaVomitingSensitivity to bright lightsSleepinessMental confusion
Symptoms in newborn and infants can be hard to notice. These may include: InactivityUnexplained high fever or low body temperatureIrritabilityVomitingFeeding poorly or refusing to eatTautness or bulging of soft spots between skull bonesDifficulty waking
Treatment may include: AntibioticsCorticosteroidsFluid replacement
There are 3 meningococcal vaccines available in the US: Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4)—given as a shot into the muscle, preferred for people age 55 years or youngerMeningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4)—given as a shot under the skin, preferred for adults age 56 years or olderSerogroup B meningococcal vaccines
These vaccines are made from parts of the meningococcal bacteria. They do not contain live bacteria.
The MCV4 vaccine is routinely given to children aged 11-12 years old with a booster dose given at age 16 years. It can also be given to children with high-risk conditions as early as 2 months of age.
Three doses are given to teens (11-18 years old) who have HIV: Two doses given 2 months apart at 11 or 12 years oldBooster dose at age 16
Teens who receive the vaccine late follow this schedule: If the first dose is given between 13-15 years old, the booster dose is given between 16-18 years old.If the first dose is given after 16 years old, then the booster dose is not needed.
The following groups of people need to be vaccinated because they have an increased risk of meningitis: College freshmen who live in dormsPeople who work in labs who may be exposed to meningococcal bacteriaMilitary personnelPeople who travel to or live in areas where meningococcal disease is commonPeople who have problems with spleen function or have had their spleen removedPeople who have a weakened immune systemPeople who have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak
Young children aged 9-23 months and others who have certain conditions need to be given 2 doses in order to be fully protected.
People who are at high risk will need a booster dose every 5 years.
In addition, teens and young adults (aged 16-23 years old) may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, preferably at 16-18 years of age. Two or three doses are needed depending on the particular vaccine used.
The meningococcal vaccine, like all vaccines, has the potential to cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of the vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small.
Mild problems associated with the vaccine include redness or pain at the injection site or a fever.
If you have the following conditions, you should not get the vaccine: Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or its componentsAre moderately or severely ill
The vaccines may be given to pregnant women. However, the MCV4 vaccine has not been extensively studied in pregnant women. It should be used only if it is clearly needed.
Preventive antibiotics may be given to people in close contact with an infected person, such as: Healthcare workersFamily members
In the event of an outbreak, close contacts of infected people and people at increased risk should get the vaccine. Antibiotics may be recommended for people in close contact.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
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Meningococcal: Who needs to vaccinate? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/who-vaccinate.htm. Updated October 22, 2015. Accessed November 11, 2015.
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http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/default.htm. Updated October 22, 2015. Accessed November 11, 2015.
Meningococcal vaccines VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening.html. Updated June 13, 2015. Accessed November 11, 2015.
10/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for revaccination of persons at prolonged increased risk for meningococcal disease.
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http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for use of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY-D) among children aged 9 through 23 months at increased risk for invasive meningococcal disease.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
Last reviewed November 2015 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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