Neisseria meningitidis exists in the nasopharynx of about 5-10% of the population and rarely causes serious disease. Severe meningococcal disease can occur when the bacterium enters normally sterile areas of the body, penetrating through the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. While N. meningitidis can cause infection in the blood or lungs, it is also a major cause of meningitis in both children and adults. Meningococcal meningitis develops when bacteria infects and causes inflammation of the meninges or the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. High fever, headache, and stiff neck are typical symptoms of meningococcal meningitis. These symptoms can develop over several hours or may take 1 to 2 days. Other symptoms may include rash, nausea, vomiting, photophobia, confusion, and sleepiness. As the disease progresses, patients may also experience seizures. Without antibiotic treatment, patients with invasive meningococcal disease can die.
N. meningitidis is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions via activities like coughing or kissing. In addition to those who are in close contact with those infected by N. meningitidis, college students living in dorms are considered at increased risk of acquiring the infection. Antibiotic prophylaxis is suggested for those who were potentially exposed to the bacterium. Vaccination against meningococcal disease with the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all persons 11-18 years old, as well as for other persons at high risk. Vaccine information can be found on the CDC Meningococcal Vaccine Statement Page.
For more information on Neisseria meningitidis,
please visit: CDC Bacterial Meningitis Website