Neisseria Meningitidis

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Topic Overview

Meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis is sometimes referred to as meningococcal disease.

Some people have Neisseria meningitidis in their throats without getting sick. But they can pass it to another person, who may get sick.

Neisseria meningitidis causes meningitis in about 25 out of 100 people who get the illness every year in the United States.footnote 1

Neisseria meningitidis also can cause outbreaks of meningitis. Outbreaks are most common outside the U.S.

If you are planning foreign travel, particularly to sub-Saharan Africa, talk with a doctor about getting the Neisseria meningitidis vaccine. Small outbreaks occur every year in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children, starting at age 11 or 12, get 2 doses of meningococcal conjugate vaccine. But children who are at high risk for severe problems from meningitis also need 2 or more doses starting as early as 6 weeks of age. The vaccine protects against certain strains of Neisseria meningitidis. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.

People who have contact with someone with a Neisseria meningitidis infection may need to take a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading.

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  1. Roos KL, Tyler KL (2012). Meningitis, encephalitis, brain abscess, and empyema. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3410–3434. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease

Current as ofMay 22, 2015