Meningococcal Information from Nurse Michelle

Meningococcal Disease


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 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;
  1. Meningitis - an infection of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord
  2. 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
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • 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 outbreaks can occur in communities, schools, colleges, prisons, and in other high risk populations.


Where can I find more information?

  • Ask your doctor.
  • Call the Alabama Department of Public Health, Immunization Division, at 1-800-469-4599.
  • Go to and type meningococcal disease in SEARCH box.

Meningococcal Vaccine


Who should get meningococcal vaccine?

  • Adolescents 11 through 18 years of age are routinely recommended for two doses of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4).
  • Preteens should get the first dose of MCV4 at their 11–12 year s of age check-up and a booster dose of MCV4 is recommended at 16 years of age.
  • Teenagers who missed a dose and are heading off to college as a freshman living in a residence hall. Ask your doctor about ge tting the vaccine now.
  • Teenagers with HIV should get three doses of MCV4.
  • People 55 years of age and older should get Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4).
  • Both vaccines prevent 4 types of bacterial meningococcal disease.


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 meningooccal 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 is 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?

  • Ask your doctor.
  • Call the Alabama Department of Public Health, Immunization Division, at 1-800-469-4599.
  • Go to and type meningococcal vaccine in SEARCH box.

The Jessica Elkins Act (SB0075, Act #2014-274) requires local school systems to provide meningococcal disease and vaccine information to parents of sixth through twelfth grade students.

Download the ADPH Meningococcal Flyer for Schools.

CDC General Meningococcal Information provides answers to frequently asked questions, including the following:

  • What is meningitis?
  • What are the signs and symptoms of meningitis?
  • How is meningitis diagnosed?
  • Can meningitis be treated? Is meningitis contagious?
  • Are there vaccines against meningitis?

The CDC created this Vaccine Information Statement (Meningococcal) with more information about the disease and its vaccine.