Meningococcal Disease

Category: Student Health

Meningococcal disease spreads by direct contact with infected persons by coughing, kissing, or sharing anything by mouth, such as water bottles, eating utensils, lipsticks, or toothbrushes. It can cause pneumonia, bloodstream infection, and meningitis (swelling of the covering of the brain and spinal cord). Severe disease can cause brain damage, loss of hearing or limbs, and death. Fortunately, this life-threatening infection is rare – we usually have only about 30-60 reported each year in Washington, including 1 to 8 deaths. Adolescents and young adults are more likely to get meningococcal disease, especially if they live in group settings, like college dorms.

Meningococcalal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV4)

MCV4 protects your child against the most common types of bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. Patients younger than 19 years of age can get MCV4 vaccine for free in Washington State. Some health care providers’ offices charge an administration fee or an office visit fee. You can ask to waive the administration fee if you can’t pay. Healthy teens should get one dose of MCV4 during a pre-teen health check up at age 11 thru 12 years. Teens who did not get their first dose during the pre-teen health visit should get a dose as soon as possible. A second dose (or booster) is now recommended. Teens should get a booster at age 16 thru 18 years or anytime before college, but don’t need it if they got the first dose on or after their 16th birthday. Teens aged 11 thru 18 years with high risk conditions like HIV, absent or defective spleens, and complement component deficiency may need more doses of this vaccine. Ask you healthcare provider how many doses your adolescent needs for a full protection.

Learn more about meningococcal disease and how to prevent it on the following Web sites:

Washington State Profile

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center

National Meningitis Association