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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
bacterial meningitis, can cause death within hours. This bacteria can also cause infections in the blood.
The disease is most common in:
Infants aged less than one year
People aged 16-21 years old
People with certain medical conditions
Community 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:
Very stiff, sore neck
Sensitivity to bright lights
Symptoms in newborn and infants can be hard to notice. These may include:
Unexplained high fever or low body temperature
Feeding poorly or refusing to eat
Tautness or bulging of soft spots between skull bones
Treatment may include:
What Is the Meningococcal Vaccine?
There are two meningococcal vaccines available in the US:
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4)—given as a shot into the muscle, preferred for people age 55 years or younger
Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4)—given as a shot under the skin, preferred for adults age 56 years or older
Both 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 two months of age.
Three doses are given to teens (11-18 years old) who have HIV:
Two doses given two months apart at 11 or 12 years old
Booster 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.
Vaccination for People at Increased Risk
The following groups of people need to be vaccinated because they have an increased risk of meningitis:
College freshmen who live in dorms
People who work in labs who may be exposed to meningococcal bacteria
People who travel to or live in areas where meningococcal disease is common
People who have problems with spleen functioning or do not have a spleen
People who have a weakened immune system
People 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 two doses in order to be fully protected.
People who are at high risk will need a booster dose every five years.
What Are the Risks Associated With the Meningococcal Vaccine? TOP
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.
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12/16/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
2/10/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance ...(Click grey area to select URL) Akinsanya-Beysolow I, Immunization Services Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years—United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014 Feb 7;63(5):108-109.
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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.