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Meningococci are a type of bacteria that cause serious infections. The most common infection is meningitis, which is an inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Meningococci can also cause other problems, including a serious bloodstream infection called sepsis.
Meningococcal infections can spread from person to person. Risk factors include:
- Age - it is more common in infants, teens, and young adults
- Living in close quarters, such as in college dorms or military settings
- Certain medical conditions, such as not having a spleen
- Travel to areas where meningococcal disease is common
In its early stages, you may have flu-like symptoms and a stiff neck. But the disease can progress quickly and can be fatal. Early diagnosis and treatment are extremely important. Lab tests on your blood and cerebrospinal fluid can tell if you have it. Treatment is with antibiotics. Since the infection spreads from person to person, family members may also need to be treated.
A vaccine can prevent meningococcal infections.
- Meningococcal Disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Meningococcal Disease: Signs and Symptoms (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
Diagnosis and Tests
- Bacteria Culture Test (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Meningococcal Disease: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Spinal Tap (Lumbar Puncture) (Nemours Foundation)
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Meningococcal ACWY Vaccine: What You Need to Know (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Meningococcal Disease for Adults (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)
- Preventing Meningococcal Disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Safety Information for Meningococcal Vaccines (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Meningitis Myths and Facts (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)
- Meningococcal Disease: Causes and How It Spreads (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Travelers' Health: Meningococcal Disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Meningococcal Photos (Immunization Action Coalition)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Meningococcal Infections (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Serum bactericidal activity against circulating and reference strains of meningococcal serogroup...
- Article: Adolescent and parental decision-making for the MenACWY vaccination: influential predictors and...
- Article: Evaluating the effect of targeted strategies as control tools for hypervirulent...
- Meningococcal Infections -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Meningococcal Vaccine (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation)
- Meningococcal Vaccines: What You Need to Know (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Meningococcal Disease: Information for Teens and College Students (American Academy of Pediatrics) Also in Spanish
- Meningococcal Disease (Bacterial Meningitis) Vaccine and Pregnancy (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Meningococcemia (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish