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: Signs and Symptoms (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Meningococcus Disease Photos (Immunization Action Coalition)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Meningococcal Infections (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Meningococcal Disease: Information for Teens and College Students (American Academy of Pediatrics) Available in Spanish
- Meningococcal Vaccine: A Guide for Teens (Children's Hospital Boston)
- Spinal Tap (Nemours Foundation) Available in Spanish
- Meningococcal Disease (Bacterial Meningitis) Vaccine and Pregnancy (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) - PDF