Meningococcal meningitis is a rare but serious bacterial infection. It causes the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed.
- Quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (A, C, W, and Y) is a safe and effective vaccine licensed to prevent meningococcal disease in individuals age 2 to 55 years.
- Serogroup B vaccines are safe and effective vaccines licensed to prevent meningococcal disease in individuals age 10 to 25 years.
- Quadrivalent vaccine is recommended for routine immunization of adolescents at age 11-12 years, with a booster at age 16 years, and for adults with certain risk factors.
- You cannot get meningococcal disease from vaccines.
Meningococcal meningitis can be fatal or cause great harm without prompt treatment; as many as one out of five people who contract the infection have serious complications.
Bacteria and viruses are the two main causes of meningitis. The bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, also called meningococcus, causes meningococcal meningitis. In children and teens, meningococcus is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis. In adults, it is the second most common cause.
How to Identify?
Meningococcal disease can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms are often similar to those of other illnesses. If a doctor suspects meningococcal disease, they will collect samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid (fluid near the spinal cord). Doctors then send the samples to a laboratory for testing. If Neisseria meningitidis bacteria are in the samples, laboratorians can grow (culture) the bacteria. Growing the bacteria in the laboratory allows doctors to know the specific type of bacteria that is causing the infection. Knowing this helps doctors decide which antibiotic will work best. Other tests can sometimes detect and identify the bacteria if the cultures do not.
- General poor feeling
- Sudden high fever
- Severe, persistent headache
- Neck stiffness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Discomfort in bright lights
- Drowsiness or difficulty awakening
- Joint pain
- Confusion or other mental changes
What to Do?
Meningococcal meningitis can cause death or serious complications, such as brain damage, paralysis, gangrene, or deafness. To prevent these problems, it’s important to act quickly. Do not wait. Seek immediate medical attention. Tests can confirm a diagnosis of meningococcal meningitis. The doctor may start antibiotics, such as penicillin or ceftriaxone, by an IV, or intravenous line. You or your child may also need other medication to treat problems related to increased spinal fluid pressure.