What is Meningitis?

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is a serious illness caused by a bacterium that can lead to an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.  When this occurs, it is called meningitis.

What are the types of Neisseria meningitidis?

There are different types or groups of Neisseria meningitidis known as A, B, C, W and Y.  Types A, C, W, and Y cause most meningococcal disease.  Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but rates of disease are highest in children younger than 1 year old, followed by a second peak in adolescence. Since 2009, the rate of meningitis has continued to decrease and has reached an all-time low.

Is there meningitis prevention?

There are vaccines available that help reduce your risk against meningitis.  Menactra, MenHibrix, or Menveo protects against meningitis groups A, C, W and Y.  This vaccine is routinely given to children between the ages of 11 and 12, with a booster dose at 16.

In 2014, a vaccine to help protect against meningitis B became available for adolescents between the ages of 16 and 23 (Trumenba or Bexsero).  Currently, immunization against Meningitis B is NOT routinely recommended for healthy individuals. This is because the rate of meningitis B is low, and important data for making policy recommendations for meningitis vaccines are not yet available.  This includes long-term side effects; duration of immunity; and how well the vaccine prevents the disease.  Therefore, not enough evidence exists to make a routine public health recommendation that all adolescents be vaccinated against meningitis B.

The vaccine is, however, recommended to those individuals at increased risk for meningitis B disease.  This includes those with a rare immune system diseases, those with a damaged spleen or no spleen, those receiving a drug called Soliris, and anyone living in a community with serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak.

Can I get the vaccine if I’m not at risk?

Although not routinely recommended, healthy individuals between the ages of 16 and 23 may choose to vaccinate against Meningitis B.  Talking with your healthcare provider is important to determine if you are at risk for disease and your need for immunization.