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What is meningococcal meningitis?[1]

  • Meningococcal meningitis is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitides. It affects the covering of the brain and the spinal cord.
  • It can present as meningitis and or septicaemia (blood poisoning). Meningococcal meningitis can be fatal, and for some survivors there are long-term complications.
  • There are different types of meningococcal meningitis. Five types cause most of the disease in humans: A, B, C, W and Y.
  • Group B (Men B) is responsible for about 80% of bacterial meningitis in the UK[8].
  • The bacteria can be spread through respiratory droplets by activities such as coughing, sneezing or kissing[4].
  • Crowded living conditions such as students in university, military recruits or Hajj pilgrims facilitate the spread of the disease[4][5],[6].

Meningitis B: Prevalence and population at risk

  • The prevalence of meningitis B varies with age, with most cases occurring in children and infants under the age of 5 years. Another peak occurs in teenagers and young adults[2]
  • Patients with underlying medical conditions such as asplenia, splenic dysfunction (including coeliac and sickle cell disease) and complement disorders have also been identified at risk of contracting Meningitis B[3].
  • Your healthcare professional can advise you on whether you or your child are recommended to receive the Meningitis B vaccine- Bexsero.


The disease can manifest itself in a variety of different ways according to the age group affected. The most common symptoms of meningitis are[7]:


  • Fever accompanied with cold extremities
  • High pitched moaning or whimpering
  • Blank staring, inactivity, difficult to wake
  • Poor feeding
  • Neck retraction and arching back
  • Pale and blotchy skin
  • Non- fading rash

Children and adults

  • Sudden onset of high fever
  • Severe headache
  • Photophobia
  • Vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Fit
  • Drowsiness that can deteriorate into coma
  • Non-fading rash


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. Chapter 14: Meningococcal Disease. Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe S, eds. 13th ed. Washington D.C. Public Health Foundation, 2015
  2. Public Health England. Invasive meningococcal B infections laboratory reports in England by age group & epidemiological year, 1998/99-2014/15. October 2015. Available at: epi_year.pdf. Last accessed: July 2017.
  3. The Green Book, Chapter 7 ‘Immunisation of individuals with underlying medical conditions’  . Last accessed July 2017
  4. World Health Organization (WHO). Meningococcal meningitis. Fact sheet No.141 (Updated November 2015). Available at: Last accessed July 2017.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Manual for the surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases. Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, 2008 available at Last accessed July 2017.
  6. Rosenstein NE et al. Meningococcal disease. N Engl J Med 2001;344(18):1378–88
  7. Public Health England. Meningococcal disease: clinical and public health management. August 2015. Available at: Last accessed: July 2017.
  8. Chapter 22 v.10.0: Meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia. In: The Green Book. Public Health England: updated September 2016. Available at: Last accessed: July 2017.

Bexsero is a registered trademark of the GlaxoSmithKline group of companies.