Meningococcal Disease - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is meningococcal disease?
Invasive meningococcal disease is a serious infection that can cause a high fever, headache, stiff neck, and rash. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early; however, it can cause fatalities (death) in 10-15% of those who contract it. If you develop symptoms, you should immediately seek medical care.
How common is meningococcal disease?
Only 1,000 - 1,200 people contract meningococcal disease in the U.S. every year. Anyone can get meningococcal disease; however, it primarily affects infants less than one year of age and people 16-21 years. Children with certain medical conditions, such as lack of a spleen, and college students living in dormitories are at highest risk of contracting the disease.
Who gets invasive meningococcal disease?
Anyone can get invasive meningococcal disease. Infants over 12 months of age have the highest rates of disease. Clusters of cases and outbreaks do occur but are rare in the United States.
Where can I find more information on meningococcal disease?
If you believe you may qualify for meningococcal vaccine or you have been exposed to someone with the infection, please contact your health care provider. For further information on meningococcal disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control or the Immunize Action Coalition, or call our Epidemiology Program at (562) 570-4302.
How is invasive meningococcal disease spread?
The disease is spread by prolonged close contact with an infected person as demonstrated by the following examples:
- Close exposure to sneezing or coughing
- Direct contact with saliva through kissing or sharing eating utensils, a drinking glass, or a cigarette
It is NOT spread simply by breathing the air where a person with the disease has been, and it is NOT highly contagious.
It is NOT as contagious as the common cold or flu.
SYMPTOMS & DIAGNOSIS
How soon after infection do symptoms appear?
The symptoms may occur 2 to 10 days after exposure, but usually within 5 days.
When and for how long is an infected person able to spread the disease?
An infected person may be contagious from the time he or she is first infected until the germ is no longer present in discharges from the nose and throat.
How is invasive meningococcal disease diagnosed?
Invasive meningococcal disease is usually diagnosed in an ill person by laboratory identification of the bacteria from either the blood or spinal fluid.
What is the treatment for invasive meningococcal disease?
Several antibiotics are very effective in eliminating the bacteria from the nose and throat. Penicillin is still effective against the meningococcal organism and remains the recommended treatment.
Should people who have been in contact with a diagnosed case of invasive meningococcal disease receive preventive treatment?
Only people who have been in prolonged close contact (household members, intimate contacts, health care personnel performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, day care center playmates, etc.) need to be considered for preventive treatment. Such people are usually advised to obtain a prescription for an antibiotic from their physician. Casual contact, as might occur in a regular classroom, office, factory, or other work setting is usually not sufficient enough to cause concern.
Ask your provider for a meningitis vaccination if you are HIV positive or gay/MSM at risk for the disease (see above). If the vaccine is not available or offered in the clinic that you go to, the following may be able to help:
Meningococcal Vaccine at the Long Beach Health Department
City of Long Beach Department of Health & Human Services - Immunization Clinic
2525 Grand Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90815
Appointment Line: (562) 570-4315
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday - Friday
Meningococcal Vaccine at LA County Department of Public Health Clinics
The LA County Department of Public Health will continue to make free meningococcal vaccine available to patients at DPH public health clinics at various locations within LA County. Specific clinic hours have been extended on Friday evening and clinics will be open on Saturday. The location and hours of public health clinics providing the vaccine can be found at: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip/DiseaseSpecific/dontswap,htm
Where Meningococcal Vaccine Can be Obtained
- Know the benefits of a meningococcal vaccination.
- Get an HIV test if you are gay/MSM and have not been tested for HIV withing the last year.