Neisseria Meningitidis

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Neisseria Meningitidis

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 60% of bacterial meningitis in people between the ages of 2 and 20.

Neisseria meningitidis also can cause outbreaks of meningitis. Outbreaks are most common outside North America.

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 Canada.

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that children younger than 5, teens, and young adults get a meningococcal conjugate shot.1 The vaccine protects against certain strains of Neisseria meningitidis. Another type of meningococcal vaccine is recommended for children 2 and older and adults who may have a higher-than-normal risk, such as travellers to countries known to have outbreaks of meningitis, people without a spleen, and those with HIV.2, 3

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. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2006). Menningococcal vaccine. In Canadian Immunization Guide, 7th ed., pp. 237–250. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada.
  2. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2009). Statement on meningococcal vaccination for travellers. Canada Communicable Disease Report, 35(ACS-4): 1–22. Also available online:
  3. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2009). Update on the invasive meningococcal disease and meningococcal vaccine conjugate recommendations. Canada Communicable Disease Report, 36(ACS-3): 1–40. Also available online:


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Last Revised February 8, 2011

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