Meningococcal Meningitis

If you believe you may have Meningococcal meningitis or been exposed, call a healthcare professional. 

What is Meningococcal Meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis is a rare form of bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis (N. Meningitidis) also known as the meningococcal bacteria. There are 8 different serogroups of N. Meningitidis. One in 10 persons carry these bacteria in the back of their nose and throat, but most do not get sick and do not have symptoms. Sometimes the bacteria can attack the body and cause the infection meningococcal meningitis. Meningococcal meningitis, however, is not easily transmitted to others and is not spread by casual contact. Testing for meningococcus in carriers or persons who do not have symptoms is not recommended. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Meningococcal Disease and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department webpage.

How are Meningococcal Bacteria Spread?

People may spread the bacteria through respiratory droplets (saliva or spit). Generally it takes being close to someone for a lengthy time to spread the bacteria. Those who are close contacts to an infected person and considered at increased risk to get sick, are persons who live in the same household such as roommates, and persons who share glasses, utensils, food or drink, or kiss an infected individual. These persons at higher risk are treated with antibiotics after exposure. Persons who have had exposure to close contacts, and those who attended class or worked with an infected individual are not considered at higher risk and are not recommended to take the antibiotics.

How Common is Meningococcal Meningitis?

Meningococcal disease is relatively uncommon. According to the CDC, in 2019 there were about 375 cases of meningococcal disease reported in the US.  For meningococcal serogroup B, there are on average 34 cases reported each year among persons 16 to 23 years old. In 95% of meningococcal cases, there is only one individual involved and so outbreaks are not common. Of those who become ill, 85%-90% recover with treatment. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Meningococcal Meningitis?

Symptoms of meningitis may include high fever, rash, severe headache, light sensitivity, confusion, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms of septicemia (bloodstream infection) may include high fever, chills, fatigue, cold hands and feet, severe aches, rapid breathing, diarrhea or a dark purple rash. Seek immediate medical attention if you develop any of these symptoms. More information can be found at

How Can I Decrease My Risk of Meningococcal Infection?

Vaccination against meningococcus can decrease the risk of infection. There are two types of meningococcus vaccines. 

  • Meningococcal conjugate or MenACWY vaccines protect against meningococcus serogroup A,C,W, and Y. Note that the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) is currently a California State University requirement for college students matriculated on or after Fall 2020 at SJSU.
  • Serogroup B meningococcal or MenB vaccines protect against meningococcus serogroup B and are called Bexsero and Trumenba. If you received a meningitis vaccine but not Bexsero or Trumenba, you are not vaccinated for serogroup B meningococcus.  

Who should get Meningococcal Vaccines?

Certain people are at increased risk of contracting the disease, particularly adolescents and young adults ages 16 through 23 years, including college students living in residence halls. Please refer to the Centers of Disease Control Meningococcal Vaccination webpage for more information. 

Where Can I Get Vaccinated Against Meningococcal Meningitis?

  • Call the Student Wellness Center at (408) 924-6122 for vaccine availability
  • Your existing healthcare provider
  • Your local county health department.

For alternative locations offering the meningococcal conjugate vaccine or MenB vaccine, please also visit the Santa Clara County Public Health Pharmacy Travel and Immunization Clinic.