Topic Overview

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 meningitis in about 25 out of 100 people who get the illness
every year in the United States.footnote 1

Neisseria meningitidis also can cause
outbreaks of meningitis. Outbreaks are most common
outside the U.S.

If you are planning foreign travel, particularly to sub-Saharan
Africa, talk with a doctor about getting the
Neisseria meningitidis vaccine. Small outbreaks occur
every year in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children, starting at age 11 or 12, get 2 doses of meningococcal conjugate vaccine. But children who are at high risk for severe problems from meningitis also need 2 or more doses starting as early as 6 weeks of age. The vaccine protects against
certain strains of Neisseria meningitidis. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.

People who have contact with someone with a Neisseria meningitidis infection may need to take a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading.

Related Information



  1. Roos KL, Tyler KL (2015). Meningitis, encephalitis, brain abscess, and empyema. In DL Kasper et al., eds., Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th ed., vol. 2, pp. 883-906. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC – Infectious Disease

Current as ofMarch 3, 2017