Meningitis Information for the Public

Meningococcal disease is a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that can lead to meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or meningococcal septicemia, an infection of the blood.

Meningococcal disease, caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in older children and young adults in the United States.Meningococcal infection is contagious, and progresses very rapidly. It can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu, and, if not treated early, meningitis can lead to death or permanent disabilities.

West Virginia has about 10-20 cases of meningococcal disease every year. Meningococcal disease strikes 1,400 to 3,000 Americans each year and is responsible for approximately 150 to 300 deaths.Of those who live, 1 in 5 will lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous system, become mentally retarded, or suffer seizures or strokes.

Adolescents and young adults account for nearly 30 percent of all cases of meningitis in the United States. In addition, approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, and 5 to 15 students will die as a result. Evidence shows approximately 70 to 80 percent of cases in the college age group are caused by serogroup C, Y, or W-135, which are potentially vaccine-preventable.

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against four of the five most common groups of bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for 11-and 12-year-olds at their routine preteen doctor visit. Immunization is also recommended for college freshmen who will be living in dorms, adolescents at high school entry who have not previously received meningococcal vaccine, and groups at high-risk for meningococcal disease.



Meningococcal Meningitis (PDF)