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Medically reviewed by Dr. Shelley Kim
Meningitis B is an uncommon but serious disease caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. Anyone can get meningitis B, but rates of the disease peak in adolescence, with the highest rates among teens and young adults 16-23 years old. Meningitis B can lead to an infection of the protective lining of the brain and the spinal cord or an infection of the blood, known as septicemia. Symptoms can progress very quickly and may become fatal.
Luckily, vaccination can help prevent meningitis B. We reached out to Dr. Shelley Kim, a pediatrician at Little Five Points Pediatrics in Atlanta, to learn more about meningitis B and how to keep your family safe from contracting it.
What are meningitis and meningitis B?
Meningitis is an infection of the lining of the brain or spinal cord caused by a viral or bacterial
infection. Five groups of Neisseria meningitidis cause bacterial meningitis: A, B, C, W and Y. Meningococcal group B disease (commonly referred to as meningitis B) is caused by type B. Meningitis B can strike otherwise healthy people without warning, progress quickly and be fatal — sometimes within 24 hours. One in 5 survivors of meningitis B will have long-term consequences, including brain damage, hearing loss and loss of limbs.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include intense headache and fever, sensitivity to light, rash, and a stiff neck. Meningitis B may lead to convulsions, delirium and death.
Who should get the meningitis vaccines?
All children/young adults between the ages of 11 and 23 years should get both the meningitis ACWY vaccine and the meningitis B vaccine.
Why are two vaccines needed to protect against bacterial meningitis (MenACWY and MenB)?
There currently are two different vaccines for meningitis. They target the main serotypes of Neisseria meningitidis. Vaccination against serotypes A, C, W and Y is recommended for 11- to 12-year-olds with a booster at age 16. Vaccination against meningitis B is recommended for 16- to 23-year-olds.
Who is at higher risk for meningitis B? Why?
Certain everyday behaviors can increase the risk of getting meningitis B, particularly for teens and young adults, including living in close quarters; sharing drinks, eating utensils or smoking devices; coughing and sneezing; kissing; or smoking. College students who live in dorms, as well as people living in military barracks, are at higher risk of contracting meningitis B.
How dangerous is meningitis B?
Meningitis B is very dangerous: 1 in 10 people can die from this disease, sometimes within 24 hours of contracting it.
How does meningitis B spread?
Meningitis B resides in the nose and mouth, and can be spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing food and drinks.
Where can I get my child this vaccine?
This vaccine can be given at a healthcare provider’s office or a local pharmacy.
Is there anything else you would like to add about meningitis B?
Meningitis B is a very serious disease. Get your teens vaccinated!
This resource was created with support from GSK.
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