Prevention & Treatment

Talk to your or your child’s clinician about what is best for your specific situation.

Prevention

Vaccines are the most effective way to protect against certain types of bacterial meningitis. There are vaccines for 3 types of bacteria that can cause meningitis:

  • Meningococcal vaccines help protect against N. meningitidis
  • Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against S. pneumoniae
  • Hib vaccines help protect against Hib

Make sure you and your child are vaccinated on schedule.

Like with any vaccine, the vaccines that protect against these bacteria are not 100% effective. The vaccines also do not protect against all the types (strains) of each bacteria. For these reasons, there is still a chance vaccinated people can develop bacterial meningitis.

Meningococcal Vaccination

Key Facts

There are 2 types of meningococcal vaccines:

  • Meningococcal conjugate or MenACWY vaccines
  • Serogroup B meningococcal or MenB vaccines

Who Should Get Meningococcal Vaccines?

CDC recommends meningococcal vaccination for all preteens and teens. In certain situations, CDC also recommends other children and adults get a meningococcal vaccine. Below is more information about which meningococcal vaccines CDC recommends for people by age.

Preteens and Teens

Taking a complement inhibitor such as eculizumab (Soliris®) or ravulizumab (Ultomiris®) increases your risk for meningococcal disease. Even if you received meningococcal vaccines, you could still get meningococcal disease.

All 11 to 12 year olds should get a MenACWY vaccine, with a booster dose at 16 years old. Teens may also get a MenB vaccine, preferably at 16 through 18 years old.

While any teen may choose to get a MenB vaccine, certain preteens and teens should get it if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak

Babies and Children

CDC recommends a MenACWY vaccine for children who are between 2 months and 10 years old if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Have HIV
  • Are traveling to or residing in countries in which the disease is common
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease outbreak

Talk to your child’s clinician to find out if, and when, they will need booster shots.

CDC recommends a MenB vaccine for children 10 years or older if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak

Adults

CDC recommends a MenACWY vaccine for adults if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Have HIV
  • Are a microbiologist who is routinely exposed to Neisseria meningitidis
  • Are traveling to or residing in countries in which the disease is common
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease outbreak
  • Are not up to date with this vaccine and are a first-year college student living in a residence hall
  • Are a military recruit

Talk to your clinician to find out if, and when, you will need booster shots.

CDC recommends a MenB vaccine for adults if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Are a microbiologist who is routinely exposed to Neisseria meningitidis
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak

Who Should Not Get These Vaccines?

Because of age or health conditions, some people should not get certain vaccines or should wait before getting them. Read the guidelines below and ask your or your child’s clinician for more information.

Tell the person who is giving you or your child a meningococcal vaccine if:

You or your child have had a life-threatening allergic reaction or have a severe allergy.

  • Do not get a meningococcal vaccine if
    • You have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a previous dose of that meningococcal vaccine.
    • You have a severe allergy to any part of that vaccine. Your or your child’s clinician can tell you about the vaccine’s ingredients.

You are pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • Pregnant women who are at increased risk for serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease may get MenACWY vaccines.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women who are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease may get MenB vaccines. However, they should talk with a clinician to decide if the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risk.

Pregnant women should talk to their doctor or midwife about getting tested for group B Streptococcus. Women receive the test when they are 36 through 37 weeks pregnant. Doctors give antibiotics (during labor) to women who test positive in order to prevent passing group B strep to their newborns.

Pregnant women can also reduce their risk of meningitis caused by L. monocytogenes. Women should avoid certain foods during pregnancy and safely prepare others.

If someone has bacterial meningitis, a doctor may recommend antibiotics to help prevent other people from getting sick. Doctors call this prophylaxis. CDC recommends prophylaxis for:

  • Close contacts of someone with meningitis caused by N. meningitidis
  • Family members, especially if they are at increased risk, of someone with a serious Hib infection

Doctors or local health departments recommend who should get prophylaxis.

You can also help protect yourself and others from bacterial meningitis by maintaining healthy habits:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid cigarette smoke
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

This is especially important for people at increased risk for disease, including:

  • Young babies
  • Older adults
  • People with weak immune systems
  • People without a spleen or a spleen that doesn’t work the way it should

Treatment for Pneumococcal Meningitis

If you have pneumococcal meningitis, you’ll immediately be admitted to the hospital. You’ll then be treated with antibiotics. Ceftriaxone is an antibiotic that’s commonly used to treat this condition. However, it’s not the only option and is often used along with other antibiotics. Other possible antibiotics for bacterial meningitis include:

  • vancomycin
  • ampicillin
  • benzylpenicillin
  • cefotaxime
  • chloramphenicol
  • penicillin

(1) Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial Meningitis. https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html.

(2) Healthline.com. Pneumococcal Meningitis. https://www.healthline.com/health/meningitis-pneumococcal

(3) Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada. Pneumococcal Meningitis. https://www.meningitis.ca/en/PneumococcalMeningitis

(4) Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal Vaccination. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/public/index.html

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