Meningococcal disease refers to any illness caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus. These illnesses are often severe and can be deadly. They include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).
These bacteria spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like saliva (e.g., by living in close quarters, kissing). Doctors treat meningococcal disease with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important. Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best defense against meningococcal disease.
There are 2 types of meningococcal vaccines available in the United States:
- Meningococcal conjugate or MenACWY vaccines
- Serogroup B meningococcal or MenB vaccines