Risk Factors of Meningitis
The most effective way to protect you and your child against certain types of meningitis is to complete the childhood vaccine schedule. The risk of meningitis increases by not following the recommended vaccine schedule. Other factors that can increase your risk of meningitis include:
- Viral meningitis occurs mostly in children younger than age 5.
- Before the availability of effective vaccines, bacterial meningitis was most commonly diagnosed in young children. Now, as a result of the protection offered by current childhood vaccines, bacterial meningitis is more commonly diagnosed tweens and young adults.
- Community setting
- Infectious diseases tend to spread quickly wherever larger groups of people gather together. As a result, college students living in dormitories, military personnel and children in childcare facilities are at an increased risk.
- Pregnant women are at an increased risk of catching listeriosis. The bacteria that cause listeriosis, listeria bacteria, can also cause meningitis. The unborn baby of a pregnant woman with listeriosis is also at risk.
- Working with animals
- Dairy farmers, ranchers, and other people who work with domestic animals are at an increased risk of contracting listeriosis. The bacteria that cause listeriosis, listeria bacteria, can also cause meningitis.
- Weakened immune system
- There are certain diseases, medications and surgical procedures that may weaken the immune system and increase risk of meningitis.
Help Prevent Meningitis
Meningococcal disease is a serious, vaccine-preventable infection. The meningococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all 11-18 year olds. Kids should get this vaccine at their 11-12 year old check-up with other preventive services. Kids 13-18 years old who haven’t gotten the vaccine can get it any time.
The meningococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for 11-18 year olds.
Did you know that there are approximately 1,000-1,200 cases of meningococcal disease in the United States each year? Meningococcal disease, a type of bacterial meningitis, can be very serious -- even life-threatening -- in 48 hours or less.
Symptoms of meningococcal disease are usually sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It can start with symptoms similar to influenza (flu), and will often also cause nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, rash, and confusion. Even with antibiotic treatment, people die in about 10-15% of cases. About 15% of survivors will have long-term disabilities, such as loss of limb(s), deafness, nervous system problems, or brain damage.
Meningococcal disease can be spread from person to person. The bacteria are spread by exchanging respiratory and throat secretions during close or lengthy contact (for example, coughing or kissing), especially if living in the same dorm or household. Many people carry the bacteria in their throats without getting meningococcal disease. Since so many people carry the bacteria, most cases of meningococcal disease appear to be random and aren't linked to other cases. Although anyone can get meningococcal disease, adolescents and college freshmen who live in dormitories are at an increased risk.
The good news is that there's a vaccine to help prevent meningococcal disease and it can prevent two of the three most common disease-causing strains. The vaccine is routinely recommended for all 11-18 year olds. Kids should get this vaccine, known as the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, at their 11-12 year old check-up, along with other vaccines and preventive services. If your teenager missed getting the vaccine at his/her check-up, ask the doctor about getting it now … especially if your child is heading off to college to live in a dorm.
CDC created a video to help you learn more about meningococcal disease and how to prevent it. This video features a CDC doctor who is an expert in meningitis and, most importantly, a concerned mom. You can download the video or podcast at CDC-TV or access it on your mobile phone.
Your pre-teen or adolescent is at risk for other diseases like pertussis (whooping cough) and HPV that can be prevented with vaccines. If your child hasn't had a check-up within the last year, make an appointment now and ask your child's doctor what vaccines are recommended.