Meningococcal Meningitis
(spinal meningitis, cerebrospinal fever, meningococcemia)

Meningococcal Vaccine Fact Sheet - Menomune®

Disease Facts

What is meningococcal meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis is a severe infection of the bloodstream and meninges (a thin lining covering the brain and spinal cord) caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. It is a relatively rare disease and usually occurs as a single isolated event. Clusters of cases or outbreaks are rare in the United States.

Who gets meningococcal meningitis?

Anyone can get meningococcal meningitis, but it is more common in infants and children.

How is the bacteria that causes this type of meningitis spread?

The meningococcus bacteria is spread by direct close contact with nose or throat discharges of an infected person. Many people carry this particular bacteria in their nose and throat without any signs of illness, while others may develop serious symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Although most people exposed to the meningococcus bacteria do not become seriously ill, some may develop fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and a rash. The disease is occasionally fatal.

How soon do the symptoms appear?

The symptoms may appear two to 10 days after exposure, but commonly 3 to 4 days after exposure.

When and for how long is an infected person able to spread the disease?

From the time a person is first infected until the bacteria are no longer present in discharges from the nose and throat, he or she may transmit the disease. The duration varies according to treatment used. Patients should be excluded from school, day care or the work place until at least 24 hours after therapy was begun and the illness has subsided.

What is the treatment for meningococcal meningitis?

Certain antibiotics are very effective in eliminating the bacteria from the nose and throat. Penicillin is the drug of choice for cases of meningitis.

Should people who have been in contact with a diagnosed case of meningococcal meningitis be treated?

Only people who have been in close contact (household members, intimate contacts, health care personnel performing mouth to mouth resuscitation, day care center playmates, etc.) need to be considered for preventive treatment. Such people are usually advised to consult with their physician. Casual contact as might occur in a regular classroom, office or factory setting is not usually significant enough to cause concern. Close contacts (family, day care, nursery school, etc.) should be alerted to watch for early signs of illness, especially fever, and seek treatment promptly.

Is there a vaccine to prevent meningococcal meningitis?

Presently, there is a vaccine that will protect against some meningococcal strains but it is only recommended in outbreak situations or for travel to areas of the world where high rates of the disease are known to occur.

Meningococcal Vaccine Fact Sheet


Williston - 1999


Who is eligible for the vaccine?

The vaccine is effective for children and young adults from age 18 months to 21 years. Older college students living in the dorm also may obtain the immunization. The vaccine will be provided to people in these age groups who are residents of or attend school or daycare in Williston.

How soon is the vaccine effective?

The protective antibody levels may be achieved within 10 to 14 days after vaccination. As with any vaccine, the Menomune® vaccine may not protect 100 percent of susceptible individuals.

Are there any special circumstances under which someone should not receive the vaccine?

Immunization should not be given during the course of any acute illness. Pregnant women should not be immunized since effects of vaccine on the fetus are unknown. Although lactose intolerance is not a contraindication for vaccination, people with severe lactose allergy should not be vaccinated. Finally, people with Thimerosal (mercury) allergy should not receive the vaccine.

What adverse reactions might occur?

Adverse reactions to meningococcal vaccine are mild and infrequent, consisting mainly of a slight redness at the site of the injection that may last one to two days. Up to 2 percent of young children develop fevers which last a short time after vaccination. As with the administration of any vaccine, hypersensitivity reactions are possible.

Menomune® is prepared from antigens from Neisseria menigitidis (Group A, Group C, Group Y and Group W-135). People in Williston have been diagnosed with serogroup C meningococcal disease.


Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 1999 3:47:38 PM
Allen Johnson - ND Dept. of Health -