Meningococcal Disease

Woman in hospital bed

Meningococcal disease refers to any illness caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus [muh-ning-goh-KOK-us]. These illnesses are often severe and can be deadly. They include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).

These bacteria spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., by living in close quarters, kissing). Doctors treat meningococcal disease with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important. Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best defense against meningococcal disease.

Antibiotic-resistant Neisseria meningitidis Serogroup Y

CDC recently reported multiple cases of β-lactamase-producing N. meningitidis serogroup Y in the United States, including eleven cases also resistant to ciprofloxacin. CDC has new information for healthcare providers and public health staff to consider regarding treatment, prophylaxis, and surveillance activities based on these findings.

Risk of Meningococcal Disease When Taking a Complement Inhibitor

Taking complement inhibitors such as eculizumab (Soliris®) or ravulizumab (Ultomiris™) increases your risk for meningococcal disease. Even if you received meningococcal vaccines, you could still get meningococcal disease.  Learn more about this risk factor.

Signs and Symptoms
Young woman with headache, she is sitting on the bed and touching her temple.

Signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease usually start suddenly and include fever, headache, and a stiff neck. It can start with symptoms similar to influenza (flu).  Often people with meningococcal disease also have nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, rash, and confusion. Learn more about signs and symptoms.

La enfermedad meningocócica
Page last reviewed: January 21, 2020