MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS)
What is meningococcal disease?
Invasive meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection caused by Neisseria Meningitidis. About 1 in 10 people carry this bacteria in the back of their nose and throat without getting sick, but sometimes the bacteria invades the body and causes serious illness. There are six types of Neisseria Meningitidis - A, B, C, W, and Y. Types B, C, and Y are most common in the United States.
What are the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease?
Symptoms usually occur one to ten days after exposure, but usually less than 4 days. There are two types of infections: meningitis and septicemia that can be very serious.
- Meningococcal Meningitis is when the bacteria infects the lining of the brain and spinal cord and causes swelling. Common symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion.
- Meningococcal septicemia is a bloodstream infection, damaging blood vessels. Common symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, vomitting, cold hands and feet, muscle pain, and diarrhea.
- Meningoccoal disease can result in complications such as hearing loss, learning problems, loss of limbs, brain damage, and death in about 10-15% of people who are inf
Who is at risk for meningococcal disease?
Anyone can get invasive meningococcal disease, but certain people are at increased risk. For example infants, young teens and young adults, particularly those attending college or university. Those with certain medical conditions may also be at increased risk. Clusters of cases and outbreaks do occur but are rare in the United States, such as an outbreak in Florida primarily among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
How does invasive meningococcal disease spread?
An infected person is contagious 7 days before symptom onset and until 24 hours after starting antibiotics. The disease is spread by prolonged close contact with an infected person in which respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit) are shared. Some examples include:
- Close exposure to sneezing or coughing
- Prolonged exposure between people in the same household
- Direct contact with saliva through kissing or sharing eating utensils, a drinking glass, or a cigarette
It is NOT spread simply by breathing the air where a person with the disease has been, and it is NOT highly contagious.
It is NOT as contagious as the common cold or flu.
How is meningococcal disease diagnosed?
Invasive Meningococcal Disease is usually diagnosed in an ill person by laboratory identification of the bacteria from either the blood or spinal fluid. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you develop symptoms of meningococcal disease.
What is the treatment for invasive meningococcal disease?
Several antibiotics can be used to treat meningococcal disease. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible because it will help reduce the risk of dying. Penicillin is still effective against the meningococcal organism and remains the recommended treatment.
Should people who have been in contact with a diagnosed case of invasive meningococcal disease receive preventive treatment?
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.
How can meningococcal disease be prevented?
There are two types of vaccines that can be used to prevent illness.
- MenACWY: All 11 to 12 year olds should get a MenACWY vaccine with a booster at 16 yers old.
- MenB: Teens and young adults (16 through 23 years) may get a MenB vaccine.
- Teens and adults who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease should also get vaccinated.
Due to an ongoing outbreak in the U.S., CDC., CDPH, and LBHHS recommend that meningococcal vaccine be offered to:
- All HIV infected individuals
- All gay/MSM, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have close or intimate contact with multiple partners who seek partners through the use of digital applications ("apps"), particularly those who share cigarettes/marijuana or use illegal drugs.
Ask your provider for a meningitis vaccination if you are HIV positive or gay/MSM at risk for the disease (see above). If the vaccine is not available or offered in the clinic that you go to, the following may be able to help:Meningococcal Vaccine at the Long Beach Health Department
City of Long Beach Department of Health & Human Services - Immunization Clinic
The LA County Department of Public Health will continue to make free meningococcal vaccine available to patients at DPH public health clinics at various locations within LA County. Specific clinic hours have been extended on Friday evening and clinics will be open on Saturday. The location and hours of public health clinics providing the vaccine can be found at: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip/DiseaseSpecific/dontswap,htm
- Know the benefits of a meningococcal vaccination.
- Get an HIV test if you are gay/MSM and have not been tested for HIV withing the last year.
- Adults may locate meningococcal vaccine in their area by using the CDC's "Adult Vaccine Finder"