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Who Needs a Vaccination for Meningococcal Disease?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Meningococcal disease, or meningitis, is a serious health condition. It is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and it can lead to death in some cases. Fortunately, a vaccine is available for bacterial meningitis, the most severe form of meningococcal disease. While anyone can get this vaccine, it is especially recommended for people at risk, particularly children and young adults, who appear to be more vulnerable to the disease.

A vaccine for meningococcal disease is routinely included in many childhood vaccinations, making bacterial meningitis much less common. College students should be vaccinated for it, as they are vulnerable to the disease because of their age and the close quarters found in college dormitories. People who are traveling in developing nations may want to consider a vaccine as well, as should active duty military, who tend to live and work in cramped conditions.

In addition, microbiologists should receive a meningitis vaccine, to ensure that they do not pick up an infection in the course of their work. Doctors and nurses may also choose to pursue vaccination, since they are exposed to a wide range of pathogens including those which cause meningococcal disease in the course of their work. A doctor may also recommend vaccinations for meningitis on an individual basis, although the vaccine may not always be covered by insurance.

It is important to understand that a vaccine for meningitis does not cover all forms of the disease. The disease can be caused by both viral and bacterial agents, and the vaccine only protects against some very specific bacteria, known as meningococci. The vaccine is generally very safe, although it sometimes causes mild fever and soreness. Pregnant women should avoid vaccination, as it may cause harm to the fetus; since studies on pregnant women are considered medically unethical, data on fetal harm is based on accidental vaccination of pregnant women, which is not a reliable source of data.

If you spot symptoms of meningitis such as fever, neck stiffness, and an altered medical state, the patient should see a doctor immediately. The condition is considered a serious medical emergency, and it requires prompt treatment, especially if it is a bacterial form of meningitis. Left untreated, it can lead to severe disabilities and even death as a result of sepsis or encephalitis, two conditions associated with meningococcal disease.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
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