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What is it?

Meningococcal is caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria and can include a variety of serious clinical illnesses, including meningitis (infection of the lining of the spinal cord), bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), and rarely, pneumonia (infection of the lungs). Children and young adults are most often affected by this disease. It can cause severe illness and death.


Symptoms are usually sudden onset:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck

It can start with symptoms similar to flu, and will often also cause nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, rash, and confusion.

How does it spread?

Meningococcal bacteria spread through saliva or spit, usually through:

  • Close contact, like when a person who has the bacteria in their nose or throat coughs on or kisses someone
  • Ongoing contact, like living with a person who has the bacteria in their nose or throat (for example, same household, college residence halls, military barracks)


First vaccine at 11- 12 years old
Booster dose at 16 years old

Teens and young adults (16 through 23-year olds) also may get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine. CDC also recommends meningococcal vaccination for other children and adults who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal disease used to cause thousands of serious infections every year. Thanks to vaccines, there are fewer cases of meningococcal disease in the United States than ever before. Meningococcal disease is rare, but people do get it. Teens, young adults, and people with certain health conditions are at increased risk. Meningococcal disease can cause serious infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord or the blood.

Protection from these infections is especially important because they can quickly become very dangerous — in fact, they can be deadly in just a few hours.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent meningococcal disease.