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Meningococcal vaccines

Preventing meningitis

Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria that can lead to bacterial meningitis and meningococcemia, which meningococcal vaccines can prevent.

Meningococcal Slide

Who gets meningococcal disease?

The meningococcal vaccine helps prevent the meningococcal disease caused by a bacterium called meningococcus. The germ is often carried in the throat or the nose and can cause serious diseases like bacterial meningitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningococcemia (infection of the blood) if the bacteria overcomes the body's natural defenses.

What are the symptoms?

Meningococcal disease symptoms include high fever, headache, stuff neck, vomiting and drowsiness. Other symptoms can include extreme sensitivity to bright light and a purplish rash on the skin. Not easily spread, it can be contracted only through bodily fluids from the nose or throat through kissing, or the sharing of utensils or water bottles. Most people who are infected do not develop the disease, but children under the age of 5 are at higher risk, as are teenagers.

Vaccine recommendation

Usually, only one dose of MCV4 is given. Depending on risk and other health factors, however, additional vaccines may be given.

There are two types of vaccines: MPSV4 and MCV4. MCV4 is recommended for all children and teens, ages 11 through 18 years of age.

The vaccine is also recommended for the following:

  • People who have damaged or no spleens
  • College freshmen living in dorms
  • People who might be exposed to the bacteria on a regular basis (lab workers, military or those who might be exposed in a meningitis outbreak)
  • Travelers to sub-Saharan Africa or other countries with high meningococcal rates

Those who should not get the vaccine include:

  • People with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • People who have had an adverse reaction to previous does of the vaccines or components of them
  • People who are moderately or severely ill

What you need to know

Mild side effects of the meningococcal vaccines include redness and soreness around the injection area and, in some cases, a mild fever. In more serious cases, severe allergic reactions can occur. Guillain-Barré syndrome has been reported among some people who have received the vaccine, but the cases are so rare that it has not yet been determined if the vaccine caused the reaction.

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