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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Understanding Meningitis -- Prevention

Meningitis is usually caused by many different viruses and bacteria. So the best methods of preventing it varies. But by getting vaccinated and taking sensible precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk. Here's what you need to know about meningitis prevention.

Meningitis Vaccines

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious disease -- even with treatment. That's why prevention is a far better approach. The meningococcal vaccine can prevent meningitis infection. In the U.S., three types of meningococcal vaccines are used:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) -- These include Menactra and Menveo.
  • Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) -- Menoimune.
  • Serogroup B Meningococcal B - There are two MenB vaccines. Trumenba (MenB-FHbp) and Bexsero (MenB-4C

MCV4 and MPSV4 can prevent 70% of the types of meningococcal disease. Both are effective in nine out of 10 people. MCV4 tends to give longer protection and is better at preventing transmission of the disease.

Doctors recommend a dose of MCV4, which is given as a shot, for children at age 11 or 12. A second booster dose is given at age 16. Serogroup B vaccine is also available and most recently, was recommended for use. Other people at risk should also consider getting a vaccine, including:

  • People who think they've been exposed to meningococcal meningitis
  • College freshmen living in dorms
  • U.S. military recruits
  • Travelers to areas of the world, such as Africa, where meningococcal disease is common
  • People with a damaged spleen or with terminal complement component deficiency, which is an immune system disorder
  • Lab personnel who are often exposed to the meningococcal bacteria

Wait to get vaccinated if you are very ill at the time you're scheduled for the shot. Avoid the vaccine if you:

Mild pain or redness at the injection site is common and should not be a problem. But call your health care provider right away if you have a strong reaction to the vaccine. This includes a high fever, weakness, or signs of an allergic reaction, such as trouble breathing, a fast heartbeat, or dizziness.

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