Preventing meningitis due to Neisseria meningitidis is important for people at highest risk. There are three types of meningococcal vaccine against N. meningitidis available in the United States: MCV-4 (meningococcal conjugate vaccine, Menactra, Menveo), MPSV-4 (meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine, Menomune), and bivalent meningococcal vaccine.
Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by a virus or bacterial infection.
Neisseria meningitidis is one type of bacteria that causes both meningitis and a serious blood infection called meningococcal disease. Anyone can get meningococcal disease. It is most common in infants less than one year of age and people with certain medical conditions, such as someone who has had his or her spleen removed. College freshmen who live in dormitories also have an increased risk of getting meningococcal meningitis.
Meningococcal infections can be treated with drugs such as penicillin. Still, every year in the United States, 1,400 to 2,800 people get meningococcal disease. Approximately 10 to 14 percent of people with meningococcal disease die, and 11 to 19 percent of survivors have permanent disabilities (such as mental retardation, hearing loss, and loss of limbs).
The disease often begins with symptoms that can be mistaken for common illnesses, such as the flu. Meningococcal disease is particularly dangerous because it progresses rapidly and can kill within hours.
Preventing the disease through use of the meningococcal vaccines is important for people at highest risk.