Meningococcal Vaccine

Neisseria meningitidis (a.k.a. Meningococcus) is one of the nastiest germs known to man. It causes Meningococcemia (infection of the bloodstream) and Meningococcal Meningitis (infection around the brain) – both of which are very dangerous and rapidly progressive. Meningococcal Meningitis can lead to seizures and permanent brain damage within just hours after onset of the first symptoms (fever, headache, stiff neck), and can kill within a day or two. Meningococcemia starts similar to a “flu” (fever, chills, and body ache) but within hours can lead to widespread bruising, gangrene, loss of limbs, and organ failure. Again, death can ensue within just a few days.

The risk of contracting meningococcal infection is quite low (about one in 100,000 in the U.S.). It is easily and quite successfully treated with common intravenous (IV) antibiotics (oral ones aren’t strong enough). The problem is, Meningococcus moves so fast, by the time it’s recognized and antibiotics are started it’s often too late.

While Meningococcus can sporadically infect people of all ages in all walks of life, children less than 5y old and young adults living in close quarters seem most susceptible to it. Cases in young children tend to be sporadic. The majority of U.S. outbreaks cases in the past century have occurred on college campuses and military bases. Nobody is quite sure why this is, but recently Meningococcemia has received increased publicity, because the number of college outbreaks during the 1990’s doubled compared to the ’70’s and ’80’s.

Menactra is very safe and has few side effects. The most common side effects are low grade fever or redness and swelling at the site of injection. These happen to fewer than one in five recipients of the vaccine, and only last a short while when they do.

Menactra has been FDA approved for individuals age 2 – 55 years. The CDC and AAP both recommend it be administered routinely to all children between 11 and 18 years.

For more information, please visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:

Meningococcal :