My Name is Meningitis

Hi, my name is meningitis and it’s nice to meet you. I think it’s time that I introduce myself, especially if you are the parent of an adolescent or teen. Let me tell you a little bit about myself and what I’ve been busy doing the past several years…

  • What am I? I am an uncommon but potentially deadly infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. There are five groups—A, B, C, W, and Y—that cause the majority of this disease and for which vaccines are available in the United States.[7] Specifically, group B or MenB accounted for 69% of all meningococcal disease cases in US adolescents and young adults in 2017.[1]
  • Who is most likely to meet me? Teens and adolescents are one of the more at-risk populations for meningococcal disease, given their phase of life and because they can carry these bacteria in the back of the throat.[2] Innocent actions such as sharing a drink, a meal, or even a kiss with their significant other are all typical behaviors for teens; however, these could lead to transmission of bacteria that cause this very serious disease.[2]
  • What else should you know? Meningococcal disease can attack without warning,[3],[4] and progress rapidly with early flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea, and vomiting that may be difficult to distinguish from other more common infections.[2]

What have I been doing?

During the past several years—between 2011 and 2018—one of my groups, MenB has caused all outbreaks of meningococcal disease at US colleges.[5] You may have heard about me in the news from outbreaks on university campuses including Rutgers University, Oregon State University, and Princeton University.

How do you help protect your teen or adolescent against me?

Good question! There are two distinct vaccines that help protect against these different groups of meningococcal disease: one vaccine that helps protect against groups A, C, W and Y, and a second vaccine that helps protect against group B.[8] While parents may believe their teen is protected against meningococcal disease after receiving their MenACWY vaccination, it’s important that their teen also receive the separate vaccination to help protect against MenB. As of 2018 in the U.S., only 17.2% of 17-year-old adolescents had started a multi-dose MenB vaccination series.[6]

It’s critical for parents to be educated about meningococcal disease, including MenB, so you can recognize the risk factors, signs and symptoms—and even help prevent it. If you have questions about how to help protect your adolescent or teen against meningococcal disease, including MenB, the first and best step you can take is to talk to your child’s health care provider. To learn more, please visit www.MeetMeningitis.com where you can learn important information about me. This is sponsored in partnership with Pfizer.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal disease. Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[2] Tully J, Viner RM, Coen FG, et al. Risk and protective factors for meningococcal disease in adolescents: matched cohort study. BMJ. 2006;232(7539):445-450.

[3] Poland GA. Prevention of meningococcal disease: current use of polysaccharide and conjugate vaccines. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50:S45-S53.

[4] Serogroup B Meningococcal (MenB) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening-serogroup.html. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed June 2019.

[5] Soeters H, McNamara L, Blain A, et al. University-Based Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease Caused by Serogroup B, United States, 2013–2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/3/18-1574_article. Accessed June 2019.

[6] Walker, TY, et al. (2019). National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2018. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/pdfs/mm6833a2-H.pdf. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 68(33): 718-723.

[7] Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[8] Meningococcal Vaccines for Preteens, Teens. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/meningococcal/. Accessed June 2019.

[9] Thompson MJ, Ninis N, Perera R, et al. Clinical recognition of meningococcal disease in children and adolescents. Lancet. 2006;367(9508):397-403.

[10] Borg J, Christie D, Coen PG, Pooy R, Viner RM. Outcomes of meningococcal disease in adolescence: prospective, matched-cohort study. Pediatrics. 2009;123:e502-e509.

[11] Sabatini C, Bosis S, Semino M, Senatore L, Principi N, Esposito S. Clinical presentation of meningococcal disease in childhood. J Prev Med Hyg. 2012;53:116-119.

[12] Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger. US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-child-combined-schedule.pdf. Accessed June 2019.