The Meningococcal Vaccine
What You Need to Know
- What is meningococcal disease?
- The meningococcal vaccine
- Who should get the meningococcal vaccine and when?
- Some people should not get the meningococcal vaccine or should wait
- What are the risks from meningococcal vaccines?
- What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?
- What is the national vaccine injury compensation program?
- How can I learn more?
What is Meningococcal Disease?
Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness. It is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2 through 18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal disease also causes blood infections.
About 1,000 - 2,600 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. Even when they are treated with antibiotics, 10-15% of these people die. Of those who survive, another 11-19% lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become mentally retarded, or suffer seizures or strokes.
Anyone can get meningococcal disease. But it is most common in infants less than one year of age and people with certain medical conditions, such as lack of a spleen. College freshmen who live in dormitories, and teenagers 15-19 have an increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal infections can be treated with drugs such as penicillin. Still, about 1 out of every ten people who get the disease dies from it, and many others are affected for life. This is why preventing the disease through use of meningococcal vaccine is important for people at highest risk.
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