Quick Facts: What Parents Should Know About Meningitis B

Medically reviewed. Karen Bonnie

  • Meningitis B is a rare but serious illness caused by bacteria. Neisseria meningitidis. five groups Neisseria meningitidis causes bacterial meningitis: A, B, C, W, and Y.
  • Meningitis can lead to infection of the protective layer of the brain and spinal cord or to a blood infection known as septicemia.
  • The bacteria that cause meningitis B is spread when a carrier or an infected person comes into close contact with another person. Daily activities such as coughing, sneezing, kissing, living in close quarters, and sharing drinks and utensils can spread bacteria.
  • Symptoms of meningitis B may begin as a severe headache, high fever, and stiff neck. These symptoms can often be confused with the flu. Some people have additional symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, cold hands and feet, rapid breathing, dark purple rash, and fatigue.
  • Symptoms can progress very quickly and can be fatal. Although most people recover from meningitis B, some cases can lead to other conditions such as permanent disability, brain damage, loss of limb and possibly death.
  • Anyone can get meningitis, but rates of the disease peak during adolescence, with the highest rates among teens and young adults aged 16-23. Those living in close quarters, such as university dormitories or military barracks, are particularly at risk as they share drinks, utensils, bathrooms and other spaces.
  • Vaccination is the most effective way to protect yourself. There are two types of vaccines: one for groups A, C, W, and Y, and one for group B. While most teens are vaccinated against meningitis A, C, W, and Y (recommended for 11 to 12 year olds with a 16-year-old booster), most teens and young adults are not vaccinated against meningitis B (recommended for 16-23 year olds) . In 2020, seven out of 10 17-year-olds in the United States had not received a single dose of meningitis B vaccine. The meningitis B vaccine was not available until late 2014.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about the meningitis B vaccine. Although the vaccine does not protect everyone, best defense against disease.

This resource was created with the support of GSK.

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