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  • Meningococcal Disease

     

    Meningococcal disease is a severe and potentially life-threatening illness due to bacterial infection that causes:

    • meningitis (infection of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord),
    • bacteremia (infection of the blood), and/or pneumonia (infection of the lungs).

     

    Some people (5-10 percent) carry the meningococcal bacteria in their nose or throat without becoming ill. For persons who develop meningococcal disease, the illness may occur suddenly and get worse rapidly.

    Incubation Period

    The incubation period (time from exposure to having symptoms) varies from 1 – 10 days, most commonly 3 – 4 days.

    Transmission

    Spread is not common and occurs when close, face-to-face contact allows saliva from someone with meningococcal disease or someone carrying the meningococcal bacteria in their nose or throat to get in the nose or throat of another person. Persons who may have had contact with an infected person’s saliva are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is not spread by casual contact, such as in a normal school classroom, office or work setting. The meningococcal bacteria do not live for more than a few minutes outside the body, so infection is not spread as easily as the common cold or influenza.

    Complications

    Complications include severe tissue damage that may require limb amputation, deafness, brain damage, nervous system problems and death. Nearly 10-14 percent of people with meningococcal disease die from their infection.

    Prevention of Meningococcal Disease

    Antibiotics for Exposed Close Contacts

    • Antibiotics are recommended for persons having very close contact with someone who has meningococcal disease.
      Persons needing antibiotics are typically household members, childcare contacts (children and staff), and anyone having contact with the ill person’s saliva (e.g. by kissing, sharing eating utensils, sharing beverages, or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation).
    • Antibiotics are recommended if the close contact occurred during the 7 days before the onset of illness in the person with meningococcal disease.

     

    Vaccine

    Two vaccines View exit disclaimer policy page for links to third-party websites. are available to prevent meningococcal disease, Menactra (MCV4) and Menomune (MPSV4).

    • Both vaccines prevent meningococcal disease caused by 4 strains of the meningococcal bacteria, but do not prevent meningococcal disease due to all strains of the bacteria.
    • Menactra vaccine is recommended for persons 11-18 years of age, college freshman living in dormitories, and others (2 – 55 years of age) at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.
    • Menomune vaccine is for persons over 55 years of age at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.

     

    More information on bacterial meningitis is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. External Link IconView exit disclaimer policy page for links to third-party websites.


    Last Updated: 4-23-2013