Meningococcal meningitis is rare in North Dakota and the United States, according to a statement released by the North Dakota Department of Health on Saturday, Oct. 26. Prior to 2019, the last cases were reported in 2014.
Meningococcal meningitis is a severe infection of the bloodstream and meninges, the thin lining covering the brain and spinal cord, caused by the bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis.
“People in close contact with the individuals who tested positive have already been notified and placed on antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease,” said Jenny Galbraith, immunization surveillance coordinator with the NDDoH.
Meningococcal bacteria is spread by sharing respiratory and throat secretions, such as saliva or spit. Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact, such as coughing or kissing, to spread these bacteria, which are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or flu.
“People do not catch the bacteria through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been,” Galbraith said. “People who are not a close contact of someone with meningococcal disease do not need antibiotics.”
Symptoms of a meningococcal infection include a fever along with either a severe headache, stiff neck or a rash. People experiencing meningococcal meningitis symptoms are urged to contact their primary health care provider.
“Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent meningococcal meningitis,” Galbraith said.
There are two types of meningococcal vaccines. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine is routinely recommended for children 11 to 12 years of age. Adolescents should receive a booster dose at age 16. In North Dakota, all children entering seventh through 10th grade are required to be vaccinated with one dose of MCV4. Children entering 11th through 12th grade are required to be vaccinated with two doses of MCV4. North Dakota colleges and universities also require MCV4 vaccine. Active military are also routinely vaccinated with MCV4. Younger children and adults usually do not need meningococcal vaccines. However, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends one or both types of meningococcalvaccines for people of all ages with certain medical conditions, travel plans, or jobs. Maintaining healthy habits, such as hand washing, getting plenty of rest and not having close contact with people who are sick also helps prevent meningococcal disease.
For more information, contact the NDDoH Division of Disease Control at 701-328-2378. Information about meningococcal disease can be found at www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/index.html.