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What is meningococcal disease?


What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a type of bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It also includes infection that affects and contaminates the bloodstream. Although rare, it can be severe and deadly. The bacteria that cause such a condition is called Neisseria meningitidis.

According to studies, 1,000 people in the United States get this disease each year. It includes meningitis and septicemia (a type of blood infection). Without immediate treatment, the disease can be harmful and fatal. However, even if antibiotics are used, people who survive from the condition can still have long-term disabilities, such as problems with the nerves, loss of limb, and even brain damage.


What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?

There are two outcomes when meningococcal disease occurs – meningitis and bloodstream infection. They typically appear within 3 to 7 days after exposure to the infection. Their symptoms are as follows:




  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion



Note: Besides adults, meningitis can also happen in babies. However, symptoms of meningitis in babies may not appear, making them asymptomatic. Instead, the baby may show bodily reactions like being inactive or irritable.


Bloodstream infection:


  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Skin rashes



Meningococcal infection in HIV-positive people

People with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) are at high risk for meningococcal disease, especially if their CD4 count is too low. Since the body’s immune system is compromised because of HIV, it becomes incapable of providing an immunity defense against the emergence of this disease.

What should be done? People infected with HIV need to receive a meningococcal conjugate vaccine that protects them against serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis, such as A, C, W, and Y. Later in their life, a booster shot is necessary to keep them protected from the said infection and prevent further health complications.


Getting meningococcal vaccines

There are three approved types of meningococcal vaccines. Consider the following:


  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) – There are two types of this vaccine, such as Menactra and Menveo. They are suitable for both adults and children.
  • Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) – This vaccine is very much capable of protecting people from different forms of meningococcal disease.
  • Serogroup B Meningococcal B (MenB) – MenB vaccines have two types, such as Trumenba (MenB-FHbp) and Bexsero (MenB-4C). Although these types are licensed for 10 – 24 years old, they can also be used in older people.



If you have HIV, take your regular antiviral medications. Doing so can prevent the development of complications like a meningococcal disease. However, if, in any case, you are diagnosed with any of the meningococcal diseases, take the necessary actions by talking with your healthcare professional and obtaining immediate medical attention.

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