Just the Facts
What is Meningococcal Disease?
Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by bacteria. It is a leading cause of meningitis in children 2 through 18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal disease also causes blood infections.
About 2,600 people get meningococcal disease each year in the United States. 5 to 10 percent of these people die, in spite of treatment with antibiotics. Of those who live, another 11 to 19 percent lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become mentally retarded or suffer seizures or strokes.
Anyone can get meningococcal disease. However, it is most common in infants less than one year of age and people with certain medical conditions, such as lack of a spleen. College freshman who live in dormitories have an increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal infections can be treated with drugs such as penicillin. Still, about 1 of every 10 people who get the disease dies from it, and many others are affected for life. This is why preventing the disease through the use of meningococcal vaccine is important for people at high risk.