Frequently Asked Questions about Meningitis B
- What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a life threatening bacterial infection that results in the inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord and can lead to a possible infection in the bloodstream.
What causes meningococcal disease? How is it spread?
There are at least 12 strains (or types) of meningococcal bacteria. The most common are A, B, C, W and Y.
Meningococcal disease is spread from person-to-person through the exchange of saliva (e.g. coughing, kissing or sharing drinks or eating utensils).
Some people carry the disease without having any symptoms, but they can still spread it to other people.
Who is at risk?
Students and young adults are among the most likely to contract the disease, especially in settings like college dorms where students are living in close proximity to each other and sharing drinks and food.
Meningitis B is responsible for 100 percent of all meningococcal outbreaks on college campuses in the U.S. since 2011.
What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?
Common symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, purplish rash, exhaustion, increased sensitivity to light, confusion, ice cold hands and feet, rapid breathing.
Symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically, they develop within 3 to 7 days after exposure. This infection is very serious and can be deadly in a matter of hours.
If you think you or your child has any of these symptoms, call your doctor and seek medical attention immediately.
What are the long-term effects of meningococcal disease?
While meningococcal diseases are still considered rare, infection can be devastating. One out of every 10 people who get infected will die.
Of those who survive, 1 out of every 5 people will suffer loss of limbs and/or other serious complications.
How can you become fully protected against meningococcal disease?
The MenACWY is recommended for 11-12 year olds, plus an important booster shot at age 16. Most young people have received the MenACWY vaccinations as part of the standard course of vaccinations provided by doctors and required for school. The MenB vaccination, which is recommended for 16-23 years olds, requires either a 2-dose series or a 3-dose series. Most young people have NOT received the MenB vaccination.
Both are required to be fully immunized against the most common types of the disease.
What does the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say about these two vaccinations?
In response to outbreaks on college campuses, in 2014, the Food and Drug Administration licensed a vaccine to protect against meningitis B, but very few people have received it.
The CDC recommends people ages 16 to 23 may be vaccinated against meningitis B.
Where can you get vaccinated?
Anyone seeking the MenACWY and MenB immunizations should be able to access the vaccines through their family doctor, a local health department or a pharmacy. Call your provider to make an appointment and to be sure they have both meningitis vaccines in stock.