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:

  • Age.
    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 among pre-teens 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.
  • Pregnancy.
    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.

General Meningitis Questions

Q: What is meningitis?

A: Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. People sometimes refer to it as spinal meningitis. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium is important because the severity of illness and the treatment differ depending on the cause. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and clears up without specific treatment. But bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. For bacterial meningitis, it is also important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people. Before the 1990s, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Hib vaccine is now given to all children as part of their routine immunizations. This vaccine has reduced the number of cases of Hib infection and the number of related meningitis cases. Today, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis are the leading causes of bacterial meningitis.

Q: What are the signs and symptoms of meningitis?

A: High fever, headache, and stiff neck are common symptoms of meningitis in anyone over the age of 2 years. These symptoms can develop over several hours, or they may take 1 to 2 days. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion, and sleepiness. In newborns and small infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to detect. Infants with meningitis may appear slow or inactive, have vomiting, be irritable, or be feeding poorly. As the disease progresses, patients of any age may have seizures.

Additional Meningitis links:

The Meningitis-Angles hompage

Teen 2 Teen Meningitis Angles are Stomping Out Meningitis

To learn about the disease and the Meningitis vaccine

To access a ready-to-print (PDF) version of this vaccine infromation statement