Meningococcal Disease Facts - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet


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Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet (PDF)

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Who is at risk
Protect yourself from meningococcal disease


  • Meningococcal disease is a rare, serious illness caused by a bacteria (Neisseria meningitidis). It can cause meningitis, which is an infection of the brain and spinal cord, and it can also cause blood infections.
  • Up to one out of seven (10-14 percent) of those who get the disease will die.
    • Of those who survive, up to one out of five will have permanent disabilities, such as deafness, brain damage, loss of limbs, or seizures.

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms can include:
    • High fever
    • Headache
    • Stiff neck
    • Confusion
    • Nausea
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Vomiting
    • Exhaustion
    • If a person has a blood infection, a rash may also develop.
  • A person may become seriously ill very quickly.
  • If you have these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

How long does it take for symptoms to show up?

    • It takes about 1-10 days to see symptoms after you are infected, but some people will not have symptoms.
    • When symptoms start, they come on quickly and the person may get very sick very fast.


  • Meningococcal disease is spread by contact with secretions from the nose and throat.
  • It could be spread through things like kissing, sharing silverware or lipstick, drinking directly from the same container, coughing, and having close social contact.
  • It is not spread through casual contact, such as being in the same room or touching the same object.

Who is at risk

  • In general, the risk of becoming infected with meningococcal disease is low, but anyone can get it. However, some people are at increased risk, such as:
    • People who have an immune disorder called complement component deficiency or who take Solaris.
    • People with a damaged spleen or whose spleen has been removed.
    • Lab personnel who work with the meningococcal bacteria.
    • People who travel to areas of the world where meningococcal disease is common.
    • U.S. military recruits.
    • First year college students who live in residential housing.
    • Household and other contacts of a meningococcal case.

Protect yourself from meningococcal disease

  • Avoid sharing things like silverware, drinking containers, lipstick, cigarettes, etc.
  • Get vaccinated!

Types of meningococcal vaccine

There are several types of vaccine that protect against meningococcal disease. Vaccines are recommended based on the age of a person and based on factors that increase the risk of getting meningococcal disease.

  • Quadrivalent (4-strain) meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACYW): The quadrivalent vaccine protects against four strains, also called serogroups, A, C, Y and W and is generally used for persons through age 55 years.
  • Quadrivalent polysaccharide meningococcal vaccine (MPSV4): MPSV4 protects against the same four serogroups A, C, Y and W and is used for persons over age 55 years.
  • Bi-valent (2-strain) vaccine (MenCY): MenCY protects against serogroups C and Y is only used for infants. This vaccine is combined with another commonly given vaccine, Haemophilus influenza, type B or Hib and is called Hib-MenCY.
  • Meningococcal B vaccine (MenB): MenB protects against serogroup B and is used for persons 10 years and older.

Who should get vaccinated

  • All children should get a dose of MenACYW at 11-12 years and a booster dose at 16 years of age.
    • First year college students up to age 21 years who live in residential housing should also get a dose of MenACYW if they have not had a dose since they turned 16.
  • Adolescents and young adults age 16 through 23 years may choose to receive the meningococcal B vaccine. They should discuss this with their health care provider.
  • Both MenACYW and MenB are recommended for certain children and adults at risk for meningococcal disease depending on their age. Talk to your health care provider about the need for one or both of these vaccines.

Free or low cost shots are available

Most insurance covers immunizations. Call the number on the back of your insurance card to find out more. If you do not have insurance, or your insurance doesn't pay for all shots, there are programs that can help. Children from birth through age 18 years may be eligible for free or low-cost shots through the Minnesota Vaccines for Children program. Check with your clinic to see if they participate. Some clinics also provide free or low-cost shots for adults age 19 years and older. You can find a participating clinic on the Vaccination Clinics Serving Uninsured and Underinsured Adults website.

Updated Friday, December 18, 2015 at 09:36AM