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.

College Outbreaks

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

Rutgers University – New Brunswick is experiencing an outbreak of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The New Jersey Department of Health and Rutgers University recommend vaccination for at-risk populations at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Learn more from Rutgers Universityexternal icon.

Columbia University

Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) is experiencing an outbreak of serogroup B meningococcal disease. Columbia Health recommends vaccination for students enrolled in SIPA. Learn more from Columbia Universityexternal icon.

San Diego State University

San Diego State University (SDSU) is experiencing an outbreak of serogroup B meningococcal disease. San Diego County’s public health officer recommends vaccination for all SDSU undergraduate students 23 years old and younger. Learn more from SDSUexternal icon.

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.

Page last reviewed: May 31, 2019