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Vaccines to Prevent Meningococcal Disease
There are meningococcal vaccines that help protect against five types (serogroups) of meningococcus bacteria, including the three types most common in the United States (serogroups B, C, and Y). Meningococcal vaccines cannot prevent all cases of the disease, but they do protect many people who might become sick if they didn't get vaccinated.
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY or Hib-MenCY-TT) is recommended for children 2 months through 10 years old who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease. Children may be at increased risk due to certain medical conditions, because they are traveling to a country with high rates of meningococcal disease, or because of an outbreak in their community. Booster doses may be recommended if your child remains at increased risk. Talk to your child’s health care provider for more information.
Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) is routinely recommended for all 11 through 18 year olds. The first dose should be given at 11-12 years old and a booster dose at 16 years old. For adolescents who receive the first dose at 13 through 15 years old, a one-time booster dose should be administered, preferably at 16 through 18 years old, before the peak in increased risk. Adolescents who receive their first dose of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine at or after 16 years old do not need a booster dose.
Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine is recommended for children 10 through 18 years old who are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal infections due to certain medical conditions, because they are taking certain medications, or because they have been identified as being at increased risk during a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak. Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine may also be given to anyone 16 through 23 years old to provide short-term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease; 16 through 18 years old are the preferred ages for vaccination. Talk to your health care provider for more information.
Either quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) or meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) is recommended for adults if you:
Booster doses may be recommended for adults who remain at increased risk. Talk to your health care provider for more information.
Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine is recommended for adults 19 years or older who did not receive this vaccine as a preteen or teen and are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal infections due to certain medical conditions, because they are taking certain medications, if working as a microbiologist who routinely works with meningococcus isolates, or because they have been identified as being at increased risk during a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak. Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine may also be given to anyone 16 through 23 years old to provide short-term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease; 16 through 18 years old are the preferred ages for vaccination. Talk to your health care provider for more information.
Last reviewed: July 2016
Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, also called meningococcus. Some people carry these bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of disease. But sometimes these bacteria can invade the body causing certain illnesses, which collectively are known as meningococcal disease.
Neisseria meningitidis are spread from person-to-person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit) during close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact, especially if living in the same household. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningococcal disease has been.
The two most severe and common illnesses caused by Neisseria meningitidis include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). Meningococcal disease can be deadly and should always be viewed as a medical emergency. About 10 to 15 percent of meningococcal disease cases are fatal. Of patients who recover, up to 1 in 5 experience long-term disabilities, such as loss of limbs, deafness, nervous system problems, or brain damage.
A common outcome of meningococcus infection is meningitis. When caused by Neisseria meningitidis, it is known as meningococcal meningitis or bacterial meningitis. When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the protective membranes covering their brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges, become infected and swell. This is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within three to seven days after exposure.
In newborns and infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to detect. Infants with meningitis may appear slow or inactive, have vomiting, be irritable, or be feeding poorly. As the disease progresses, patients of any age may have seizures.
Another common outcome of meningococcus infection is meningococcemia, also known as meningococcal septicemia or bacteremia. This is the more dangerous and deadly of illnesses caused by Neisseria meningitidis. When Neisseria meningitidis bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply, they damage the walls of the blood vessels and cause bleeding into the skin and organs.
Symptoms may include:
Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but it is most common in infants younger than one year old and people with certain medical conditions. Teenagers and young adults 16 through 23 years old are also at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.
Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. If symptoms occur, the patient should see a doctor immediately. Meningococcal disease can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment should reduce the risk of dying, but sometimes the infection has caused too much damage to the body for antibiotics to prevent death or serious long-term problems.
Microscopic view of meningococcal.