Vaccines protect against three serogroups of meningococcal!

About Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is typically used to describe an illness that is caused by Neisseria meningitidis, or meningococcus, which is very severe. This disease often includes infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, as well as bloodstream infections. Bacteria that cause this disease can be spread through respiratory and throat secretions, such as spit, kissing and living in close quarters. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, however immediate medical attention is crucial. Staying vaccinated and up to date with vaccines is the best way to defend oneself from this disease.

Neisseria meningitidis is also a cause of epidemics of meningitis and bacteremia in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization has estimated that meningococcal disease was the cause of 171,000 deaths worldwide in 2000.

History of Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease dates back to the 16th century and was described by Vieusseux in 1805, where an outbreak resulted with 33 deaths in Geneva. However, Anton Weichselbaum first identified the bacteria responsible for Meningococcal disease in 1887, naming is Neisseria intracellularis.

Until the 1920's, meningococcal disease was fatal in 70% of its cases, however serum therapy discovered by scientists from the US and Germany reduced mortality rates to 30%. Even with further innovations of microbial agents, and optimal medical care, fatality rates have remained the same over the past 20 years, within 9-12%.

Manchanda V, Gupta S, Bhalla P. Meningococcal disease: History, epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, antimicrobial susceptibility and prevention. Indian J Med Microbiol [serial online] 2006 [cited 2016 Jan 18];24:7-19. Available from:

Cause and Transmission

As we know, Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. About 1 out of 10 people have this type of bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of disease. However, sometimes Neisseria meningitidis bacteria can invade the body causing certain illnesses, known as meningococcal disease.

There are five strains of Neisseria meningitidis known globally. Three of these serogroups, B, C, and Y, are most dominant in the United States. Meningococcal disease is very easily spread through respiratory and throat secretions during close or lengthy contact. Kissing, spit, saliva, coughing and more are ways in which the disease transfers. The bacteria are not as contagious as common cold or flu germs, and cannot be spread by casual contact. However interacting for an increased amount of time, such as being a roommate, partner or in direct contact with a patient's oral secretions can increase the risk of contracting the infection.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment of meningococcal disease are CRUCIAL!

If someone is thought to have the disease, samples of blood or fluid near the spinal cord are tested. It is absolutely imperative to know if it is meningococcal disease as the severity of the illness and treatment are dependent on the cause. However, getting the vaccine will allow for the prevention of contracting the disease.

Meningococcal disease can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment should reduce the risk of dying, however even with antibiotic treatment, 10 to 15 out of 100 people infected with meningococcal disease will die.

Meningococcal Vaccines!

Meningococcal vaccines are now available that help protect against the three strains of meningococcal disease that are most commonly seen in the United States (B,C,Y), but will not prevent all cases.

There are three kinds of meningococcal vaccines available in the United States:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccines (Menactra®, MenHibrix® and Menveo®)
  • Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Menomune®)
  • Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines (Bexsero® and Trumenba®)

Who Should Be Vaccinated?

According to

Meningococcal vaccination is recommended for all preteens and teens!

All 11 to 12 year olds should be vaccinated with a single dose of a quadrivalent (protects against serogroups A, C, W, and Y) meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra® or Menveo®).

Because protection decreases over time, a booster dose is recommended at age 16. This so that teens continue to have protection when they are at highest risk of meningococcal disease.

CDC regulations ( recommend: administer 1 dose at age 13 through 15 years if not previously vaccinated, persons vaccinated at age 13 through 15 years a 1-time booster dose should be administered, preferably at 16 through 18 years, healthy persons who receive their first dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine at or after age 16 years do not need a booster dose, routine vaccination not recommended after age 21 years for healthy persons who are not at increased risk of exposure, a booster dose is not recommended for healthy persons 22 years of age and older even if the first dose was administered at 11-15 years of age.

Are Vaccines Worth It?

According to the CDC, During 2005-2011, an estimated 800-1,200 cases of meningococcal disease occurred annually in the United States, representing an incidence of 0.3 cases per 100,000 population.

Incidence has declined annually since a peak of disease in the late 1990s, as a result of steady vaccines. And since 2005, declines have occurred among all age groups. Unfortunately, approximately 60% of disease among children aged 0 through 59 months is caused by serogroup B, for which there is no conjugate vaccine is licensed or available in the United States.

The incidence of serogroups C and Y, which represent the majority of cases of meningococcal disease preventable by the conjugate vaccines, are at historic lows.

Therefore, it is imperative that those who are at highest risk for the disease be vaccinated in order to prevent this horrific disease. The consequences of contracting meningococcal are severe and dangerous, therefore it is imperative that everyone is vaccinated according the the CDC regulations and that there is a high amount of awareness pertaining to the symptoms of the disease.