Meningococcal Disease and Vaccine
Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by bacteria. It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2-18 years old in the United States. The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease are very common. The disease is most common in children and people with certain medical conditions that affect their immune system. The disease is spread through exchange of respiratory droplets or saliva with an infected person including kissing, coughing, sneezing, and sharing drinking glasses and eating utensils. In a few people, the bacteria overcome the body’s immune system and pass through the lining of the nose and throat into the blood stream and cause meningitis. Meningitis is a term that describes inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, stiff neck, red rash, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. The meningococcal vaccine MCV4 is recommended for all children 11-12 years of age and for unvaccinated adolescents at high school entry (15 years of age). High school seniors should also consider obtaining the vaccine prior to entering college, especially if they are planning on living in a dormitory. Parents should consult the family physician or the local health department for more information. Information on MCV4 and other vaccine recommendations may also be obtained at this link.