Meningococcal Disease Facts


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Meningococcal Disease Facts (PDF)

On this page:
What is meningococcal disease?
What are the symptoms?
How does meningococcal disease spread?
Who is at risk for meningococcal disease?
How long does it take for symptoms to show up?
How can I protect myself from meningococcal disease?
Who should get vaccinated?
Where can I get vaccinated?

What is meningococcal disease?

  • Meningococcal disease is a rare, serious illness caused by 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%) 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, mental retardation, 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 disease, a rash may also develop.
  • A person may become seriously ill very quickly.
  • If you have these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

How does meningococcal disease spread?

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

Who is at risk for meningococcal disease?

  • 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:
    • College students (especially those who live in close quarters like a dormitory)
    • People living with HIV are at greater risk of acquiring the infection that causes meningococcal disease. 

How long does it take for symptoms to show up?

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

How can I protect myself from meningococcal disease?

  • Get vaccinated!
  • Meningococcal vaccine is highly effective at protecting against four strains of the meningococcal bacteria. Three strains are common in the U.S. and the fourth strain protects travelers to certain countries where the disease is more common.
  • Also avoid sharing things like silverware, drinking containers, lipstick, cigarettes, etc.

Who should get vaccinated?

  • Children are recommended to get one dose of meningococcal vaccine at 11-12 years and a booster dose at 16 years of age.
    • Students entering 7th grade are required to have one dose of meningococcal vaccine or a legal exemption.
  • Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for college students up to age 21 who are living in a dormitory.
  • Adults with certain medical conditions also need to be vaccinated. This includes people with a weakened immune system and people without a spleen.
  • If you need your immunization record, ask your health care provider or call Talk to your provider or call the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC) at 651-201-5207 or 1-800-657-3970.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Updated Friday, July 17, 2015 at 08:11AM