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Meningococcal Disease in Adults

College StudentsWhich adults need meningococcal vaccine?

Adults need to be vaccinated if they are at increased risk of meningococcal disease. This includes college students, military personnel, international travelers to areas where meningococcal disease is endemic, scientists who may be exposed to meningococcal bacteria, and those without a functioning spleen.

Adults who got the vaccine as adolescents may not need to be vaccinated again. There are two types of meningococcal vaccines currently approved for use in the US. Talk with a healthcare professional about which vaccines you need. Learn more at

Did you know… symptoms of meningococcal disease can develop and progress rapidly, leading to death in less than 48 hours?

Why vaccinate adults against meningococcal disease?

  • Approximately 1 in 10 people who get meningococcal disease will die from it, even with rapid and appropriate treatment.
  • Up to 20 percent of those who survive will suffer serious and permanent complications including brain damage, hearing loss, kidney damage, and limb amputations.
  • The early symptoms of infection might be mild and similar to less severe infections, like the flu, which can lead to missed diagnosis.

What happens when someone gets meningococcal disease?

  • Meningococcal disease most often causes meningitis and blood infections. It may start like a bad cold or the flu causing fever, headache, body aches, and a stiff neck, but it can progress very quickly and kill an otherwise healthy person in less than 48 hours.
  • Additional symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, confusion, sensitivity to light, and a dark purple rash on the arms, legs, and body.
  • The bacteria can spread through your body very quickly, affecting arms, legs, fingers, toes, and organs.

Why are meningococcal vaccines important?

  • Meningococcal vaccines can greatly reduce or eliminate the risk of getting certain types of meningococcal disease.

How do you get meningococcal disease?

The disease is spread by close, direct contact with people who carry the bacteria in their nose or throat. Some people may just be carriers and will never show symptoms or experience the disease themselves, but they can still spread it.

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