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|Meningococcal Disease - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)|GENERAL QUESTIONS
Q: What is meningococcal disease?
A: Invasive meningococcal disease is a serious infection that can cause a high fever, headache, stiff neck, and rash. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early; however, it can cause fatalities (death) in 10-15% of those who contract it. If you develop symptoms, you should immediately seek medical care.
Q: How common is meningococcal disease?
A: Only 1,000 - 1,200 people contract meningococcal disease in the U.S. every year. Anyone can get meningococcal disease; however, it primarily affects infants less than one year of age and people 16-21 years. Children with certain medical conditions, such as lack of a spleen, and college students living in dormitories are at highest risk of contracting the disease.
Q: Who gets invasive meningococcal disease?
A: Anyone can get invasive meningococcal disease. Infants over 12 months of age have the highest rates of disease. Clusters of cases and outbreaks do occur but are rare in the United States.
Q: Where can I find more information on meningococcal disease?
A: If you believe you may qualify for meningococcal vaccine or you have been exposed to someone with the infection, please contact your health care provider. For further information on meningococcal disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control or the Immunize Action Coalition, or call our Epidemiology Program at (562) 570-4302.
Q: How is invasive meningococcal disease spread?
A: The disease is spread by prolonged close contact with an infected person as demonstrated by the following examples:
It is NOT spread simply by breathing the air where a person with the disease has been, and it is NOT highly contagious.
- Close exposure to sneezing or coughing
- Direct contact with saliva through kissing or sharing eating utensils, a drinking glass, or a cigarette
It is NOT as contagious as the common cold or flu.
SYMPTOMS & DIAGNOSIS
Q: How soon after infection do symptoms appear?
A: The symptoms may occur 2 to 10 days after exposure, but usually within 5 days.
Q: When and for how long is an infected person able to spread the disease?
A: An infected person may be contagious from the time he or she is first infected until the germ is no longer present in discharges from the nose and throat.
Q: How is invasive meningococcal disease diagnosed?
A: Invasive meningococcal disease is usually diagnosed in an ill person by laboratory identification of the bacteria from either the blood or spinal fluid.
Q: What is the treatment fo invasive meningococcal disease?
A: Several antibiotics are very effective in eliminating the bacteria from the nose and throat. Penicillin is still effective against the meningococcal organism and remains the recommended treatment.
Q: Should people who have been in contact with a diagnosed case of invasive meningococcal disease receive preventive treatment?
A: Only people who have been in prolonged close contact (household members, intimate contacts, health care personnel performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, day care center playmates, etc.) need to be considered for preventive treatment. Such people are usually advised to obtain a prescription for an antibiotic from their physician. Casual contact, as might occur in a regular classroom, office, factory, or other work setting is usually not sufficient enough to cause concern.
Q: Who should receive the meningococcal vaccine?
A: Two doses of the meningococcal vaccine are recommended for adolescents 11 through 18 years of age. Others at increased risk should consult their physician on whether or not to receive the vaccine. This includes college freshmen living in dormitories, laboratory personnel who may be exposed to meningococcal bacteria, U.S. military recruits, anyone living in or traveling to an area of the world where meningococcal disease is common, anyone who has a damaged spleen, and those who may have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak.
Also, HIV positive men or men who have sex with men (MSM) traveling to New York and planning on having regular or close intimate contact with other MSM (especially at large gatherings or events) should consult with a provider on receiving the vaccine at least 7-10 days prior to exposure.
Q: I've heard about invasive meningococcal disease (meningitis) being spread among MSM/gay men in New York. Is there something I can do to prevent getting meningococcal disease?
A: MSM who are planning to travel to New York should be aware of the New York City meningococcal disease outbreak and ought to discuss vaccination with their doctor. These individuals should be reminded that meningococcal disease is spread by intimate contact (kissing, sharing drinks, cigarettes and eating utensils, or anytime you come in contact with an infected person's saliva).
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