What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a rare but severe infection caused by certain bacteria. Although meningococcal disease is rare, the bacteria that cause this disease can be found in the nose and throat of 5 to 10 out of 100 people at any time. However, less than 1 out of 100 of those infected with the bacteria will develop invasive meningococcal disease.

How is meningococcal disease spread?

Meningococcal disease can be spread through coughing, sneezing or close face-to-face contact. It can also be spread through activities that share saliva such as kissing, sharing of food, drinks, cigarettes, lipstick, water bottles, etc.

What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?

Symptoms of meningococcal infection can include:

  • Intense headache
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck (stiff back in older children and adults)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Confusion
  • Pin point rash
  • Bulging fontanelle in an infant’s skull

What are the risks of meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal infections are serious and life threatening. They can include meningitis, an infection of the lining that covers the brain and septicemia, an infection of the blood. It can also cause pneumonia (infection of the lung). For every 100 children who get sick, 15 will die even if they receive treatment. Permanent complications include brain damage, deafness and loss of limbs.

How do you prevent meningococcal disease?

The best way to not get meningococcal disease is to get immunized. Meningococcal vaccines are safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get meningococcal disease. When you get immunized you help to protect others as well.

Who should get the meningococcal vaccine?

There are two publicly funded (free) meningococcal vaccines offered in B.C. These vaccines protect against different types of meningococcal bacteria.

  • Meningococcal C Vaccine (Men C): The Men C vaccine protects against meningococcal bacteria, type ‘C’. It is free as part of your child’s routine immunizations and given to infants in a two-dose series at 2 and 12 months of age. The Men C vaccine is also recommended for other age groups and for people with certain medical conditions. Find out more.
  • Meningococcal  A/C/Y/W-135 (Men quad): The Men Quad vaccine protects against infections from the four most common types of meningococcal bacteria A, C, Y and W – 135. Starting in September 2016 this quadrivalent vaccine will be offered to all grade 9 students. This replaces the Men C vaccine that was previously offered in grade 6.

Get immunized against meningococcal disease by making an appointment with your doctor, pharmacist (for those 5 years and older) or Public Health.

To book an immunization appointment with Public Health:

Residents of Fraser East (Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope), call 604-702-4906

Residents in any other area of Fraser Health, call 604-476-7087 


For more information about meningococcal disease and the meningococcal vaccine, go to:

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