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

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

Signs & Symptoms

Two teenage girls

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.


Meningococcal Vaccination

  • Meningococcal ACWY Vaccine | Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine
    These one-page CDC vaccine information statements explain who should get meningococcal ACWY vaccines or serogroup B meningococcal vaccines and when.
  • Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine & Outbreaks
    Newly licensed serogroup B meningococcal vaccines can be an important tool for controlling outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease.
  • Basics
    Offers comprehensive information about meningococcal vaccines and other educational tools.
  • Safety
    As with all vaccines, there can be minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue or a vague feeling of discomfort.
  • Prevention Recommendations
    Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).