Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection that includes meningitis, swelling of the tissues around the brain and spinal cord: bacteremia, a severe blood infection; and pneumonia, a lung infection. It can be spread through coughs, sneezes, and the exchange of respiratory droplets such as saliva. As a result, individuals can catch the disease through common, everyday activities such as sharing water bottles, cups and utensils; kissing; and being in close quarters such as a dormitory or sleep-away summer camps.
Meningococcal disease can be difficult to recognize because early symptoms or signs are similar to those of common viral illnesses, such as the flu. The disease is rare, but it is very serious. It develops quickly and can take the life of an otherwise healthy child in as little as one day after symptoms first appear.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that a child receive an initial vaccination at age 11 or 12 years, followed by a second vaccination at age 16. If you are unsure if your child is up-to-date with the recommended vaccinations please consult your healthcare provider.