Meningococcal disease, or meningitis, is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis.
Meningitis is not as contagious as the common cold or flu but rather is passed through close contact or lengthy contact (such as: coughing, kissing, or living in close quarters). The illness is often very severe and can be deadly. Infections include infection of the meningitis (lining of the spinal cord and brain) and infection of the blood stream.
Symptoms are flu-like and rapidly worsen. The most common complaints are fever, headache, and stiff neck. Some patients report nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion. In infants, it can be more difficult to determine these complaints; they may show symptoms of being slow, inactive, irritable, vomiting, or poor feeding.
The Two Vaccines
The best defense for meningococcal disease is prevention! There are two vaccines that protect against all three types of meningitis seen in the United States.
There are two meningitis vaccine series: meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra), and serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (Trumenba). Each is a 2 dose series:
Menactra starts at 11 to 12 years old, with a booster at 16 years. Trumenba is given as 2 doses 6 months apart between ages 16 and 23. At Kids Plus, we give Menactra at 11 years and a booster at 16 years, and we give Trumenba at 16 years with a booster 6 months later.
If you have known exposure to meningitis, you may need to be treated with antibiotics to prevent getting the infection.
Possible Vaccine Reactions
Menactra side effects can include redness or pain at the site of the vaccine, and fever. Both typically resolve in 1-2 days.
Trumenba side effects can include redness, pain, or swelling at the site of the vaccine. Other reactions can include headache, fever, nausea, and feeling tired. They typically resolve in 3 to 7 days.
Serious side effects are extremely rare with meningitis vaccines.
Dr. Amy Maddalena, a Kids Plus Provider since 2006, is the Medical Director of our Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh.