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Meningococcal Information

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Public schools are required to send out all meningococcal meningitis disease and vaccine information to parents.

What is meningococcal disease?

  • Meningococcal disease is any illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis.
  • It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2-18 years of age in the U.S.
  • Meningococcal disease can be very serious, even life-threatening in 48 hours or less.
  • The two most severe and common illnesses caused by meningococcal bacteria include:
    - Meningitis - an infection of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord
    - Septicemia - a bloodstream infection.

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms of meningococcal disease are similar to influenza (flu) and may include:
    - Sudden onset of a high fever
    - Headache
    - Stiff neck
    - Nausea
    - Vomiting
    - Increased sensitivity to light
    - Rash
    - Confusion
    - Severe aches and pain in the muscles, joints, chest or belly

How does meningococcal disease spread?

  • Meningococcal disease is spread person-to-person by sharing respiratory secretions, through kissing or coughing, close or lengthy contact, and among people who share a room or live in the same household.
  • Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but teens and college freshmen who live in residence halls are at increased risk.
  • Some people can "carry" meningococcal bacteria in their nose and throat without getting meningococcal disease, but can still infect other people.
  • Most cases of meningococcal disease are spread by people who "carry" the bacteria with no symptoms, appear to be random, and not linked to other cases.
  • Meningococcal oubreaks can occur in communities, schools, colleges, prisons, and in other high-risk populatons.

Meningococcal Vaccine

Who should get meningococcal vaccine?

  • Meningococcal vaccine(s) is recommended for all preteens and teens.
  • All 11 and 12 year olds should be vaccinated with serogroups A, C, W, and Y meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). A booster dose is recommended at age 16.
  • Teens and young adults, 16 through 23 year olds, may also be vac
    cinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (SBMV), preferably at 16 through 18 years old.
  • Both MCV4 and SBMV can be given at the same time, talk to your provider.
  • Teens with HIV should get three doses of MCV4.
  • People 55 years of age and older should get Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4).
  • People at increased risk (ex: no spleen or poor spleen, autoimmune disease) during an outbreak, should be vaccinated.

Who should be vaccinated because they are at increased risk?

  • College freshmen living in dormitories.
  • Laboratory personnel exposed to meningococcal bacteria.
  • U.S. military recruits.
  • Anyone traveling or living where meningococcal disease is common, like Africa.
  • Anyone with a damaged spleen or who had the spleen removed.
  • Anyone with an immune system disorder.
  • Anyone exposed during a meningococcal meningitis outbreak.

What are the vaccine side effects and risks?

  • MCV4 and SBMV are safe, but side effects can occur.
  • Most side effects are mild or moderate and do not affect daily activities.
  • The most common side effects in preteens and teens occur where the injection is given and may include pain, tenderness, swelling, and hardness of the skin.
  • Other common side effects may include nausea, feeling a little run down, and headache.
  • Some preteens and teens may also faint after getting a vaccine.
  • Reactions usually last a short time and get better within a few days.

Where can I find more information?

Page last updated: May 13, 2021