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:
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 seizures or strokes.
Symptoms of meningitis include:
Symptoms in newborn and infants can be hard to notice. These may include:
Treatment may include:
There are different types of meningococcal vaccines available in the US:
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:
Teens who receive the vaccine late follow this schedule:
The following groups of people need to be vaccinated because they have an increased risk of meningitis:
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:
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:
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?
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Bacterial meningitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115577/Bacterial-meningitis-in-adults . Updated September 26, 2017. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Bacterial meningitis in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T566506/Bacterial-meningitis-in-infants-and-children . Updated September 26, 2017. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Deasy A, Read RC. Challenges for development of meningococcal vaccines in infants and children. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2011;10(3):335-343.
Honish L, Soskolne CL, Senthilselvan A, Houston S. Modifiable risk factors for invasive meningococcal disease during an Edmonton, Alberta outbreak, 1999-2002. Can J Public Health. 2008;99(1):46-51.
Huttunen R, Heikkinen T, Syrjänen J. Smoking and the outcome of infection. J Intern Med. 2011;269(3):258-269.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed February 9, 2017. Updated December 7, 2017.
Menactra. DailyMed website. Available at: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=4d8781ff-9366-462c-8161-6e958f44fcb4. Updated August 22, 2017. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html. Updated April 10, 2017. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Meningococcal ACWY vaccines (MenACWY and MPSV4) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening.html. Updated March 31, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Meningococcal disease. DermNet New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/meningococcal-disease. Updated February 18, 2014. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Meningococcal disease. Immunization Action Coalition website. Available at:
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Updated October 26, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Meningococcal vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/index.html. Updated March 24, 2017. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Meningococcal vaccination: What everyone should know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/public/index.html. Updated May 19, 2017. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 11/11/2015