Meningococcal Disease

Woman in hospital bed

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness caused by the type of 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

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.

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.

Five College Consortium

The Five College consortium in Massachusetts (MA) is experiencing an outbreak of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The MA Department of Public health recommends vaccination to students at all five schools.

Risk of Meningococcal Disease When Taking Eculizumab (Soliris®)

Taking eculizumab (Soliris®) 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

Two teenage girls

Signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease are usually sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It can start with symptoms similar to influenza (flu), and will often also cause nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, rash, and confusion.

Page last reviewed: March 28, 2017