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 two meningococcal vaccines available in the US:
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.
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 two doses in order to be fully protected.
People who are at high risk will need a booster dose every five years.
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?
American Academy of Pediatrics
Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Bacterial meningitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 26, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Bacterial meningitis in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 1, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Deasy A, Read RC. Challenges for development of meningococcal vaccines in infants and children. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2011;10(3):335-343.
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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: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Updated January 29, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Menactra. DailyMed website. Available at: http://dailymed.nl.... Updated November 2011. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Meningitis. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html. Updated March 15, 2012. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Meningococcal disease. DermNet NZ website. Available at: http://dermnetnz.org/bacterial/meningococcal-disease.html. Updated June 29, 2011. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Meningococcal disease. Immunization Saves Lives website. Available at: http://www.vaccineinformation.org/meningococcal. Updated May 29, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Meningococcal vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/default.htm. Updated February 7, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Meningococcal vaccines: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-mening.pdf. Updated October 14, 2011. Accessed June 5, 2013.
10/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : 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. MMWR . 2009;58(37):1042-1043. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5837a4.htm . Published September 25, 2009. Accessed October 2, 2009.
12/16/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : 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. 2011;60(40):1391-1392.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 6/5/2013