Neisseria meningitidis

Meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis is sometimes referred to as meningococcal disease.

Some people have Neisseria meningitidis in their throats without getting sick. But they can pass it to another person, who may get sick.

Neisseria meningitidis causes 60% of bacterial meningitis in people between the ages of 2 and 20. It is the source of meningitis in about 25% of the people who get the illness every year in the United States.1

Neisseria meningitidis also can cause outbreaks of meningitis. Outbreaks are most common outside the U.S. A person planning foreign travel, particularly to sub-Saharan Africa, should talk with a health professional about getting the Neisseria meningitidis vaccine. Small outbreaks occur every year in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination with the vaccine (Menactra) that protects against certain strains of neisseria meningitidis for adolescents and for college freshman living in dormitories. Adolescents should get this shot at age 11 or 12. Teens ages 13 to 18 who haven't had the shot should get it as soon as possible.2


  1. Roos KL, Tyler KL (2008). Meningitis, encephalitis, brain abscess, and empyema. In AS Fauci et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 17th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2621–2641. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Revised recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to vaccinate all persons aged 11-18 years with meningococcal conjugate vaccine. MMWR, 56(31): 794–795. Also available online:

Last Updated: December 24, 2008

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