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Prevention

Keeping up to date with recommended immunizations is the best defense against meningococcal disease. Maintaining healthy habits, like getting plenty of rest and not coming into close contact with people who are sick, can also help.

Vaccination

There is a vaccine for the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. However, available vaccines do not cover all serogroups (“strains”) of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. Like with any vaccine, meningococcal vaccines are not 100% effective. This means that even if you have been vaccinated, there is still a chance you can develop a meningococcal infection. People should know the symptoms of meningococcal meningitis and meningococcal septicemia since early recognition and quick medical attention are extremely important.

The nurse in this 2006 image was in the process of administering an intramuscular injection into the left shoulder muscle of this 13-year old boy as his mother looked on. He was assisting in the injection by holding up his shirt sleeve in order to expose the immunization site.

Learn more about who should get this vaccine.

Antibiotics

Sometimes Neisseria meningitidis bacteria spread to other people who have had close or lengthy contact with a patient with meningococcal disease. People in the same household, roommates, or anyone with direct contact with a patient's oral secretions (saliva) (such as a boyfriend or girlfriend) would be considered at increased risk of getting the infection. People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease. This is known as prophylaxis.

Infection

If your doctor confirms that you have meningococcal disease, your body will develop a natural defense (immunity) to some similar types of future infections. However, like with the vaccine, this protection does not last a lifetime and is not perfect. Therefore, routine meningococcal vaccines are still recommended. If you get meningococcal disease twice, it is highly possible that you have an underlying immune deficiency, which your doctor should evaluate. 

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