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Meningitis - Prevention

Vaccines

Childhood vaccinations are the best way to prevent meningitis. These shots prevent germs from causing some of the diseases that can lead to meningitis. They include shots for:

  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).(What is a PDF document?)
  • Chickenpox(What is a PDF document?).
  • Hib disease(What is a PDF document?).
  • Pneumococcal disease (PPSV(What is a PDF document?) or PCV(What is a PDF document?)). Getting this shot usually protects people from the type of bacteria that is most likely to cause meningitis death.
  • Meningococcal disease(What is a PDF document?). This shot is also recommended for people whose risk is higher than normal, such as travelers to countries known to have outbreaks of meningitis, people without a spleen, and those who have HIV.

For more information about immunizations, see the topic Immunizations.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, to children and teens. Learn more.

Health Insurance Center

Cochlear implants

A link has been found between meningitis and cochlear implants for severe hearing loss. To help protect against meningitis, experts recommend that people with cochlear implants get a pneumococcal shot. Also, some people with implants have ear infections before they get meningitis, so it's important to treat ear infections right away with antibiotics.

Lowering your risk

Take steps to lower your risk of getting or spreading meningitis:

  • Stay away from people who have it.
  • Keep people with meningitis separate from other people in the home.
  • Wash your hands often if you have meningitis or are taking care of someone who does. Wash your hands after using the toilet or helping a sick child use the toilet, after changing a sick baby's diaper, and after handling used bedsheets, towels, clothes, or personal items of a sick person.
  • Avoid contact with wild animals. And take steps to prevent bites from bugs, such as mosquitoes and ticks, that might carry disease-causing bacteria or viruses.
  • If you come in close contact with someone who has bacterial meningitis, call your doctor. Taking antibiotics may keep you from getting the illness. If your contact is only casual—for example, at school or at work—you don't need to take antibiotics.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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