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Can Meningococcal Disease cause injury and/or death?

Updated February 04, 2024

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Yes, however, meningococcal disease is rare in the U.S. and in 2020, there were 235 reported cases and 23 deaths resulting from the disease. Of these cases, 26 percent were unknown and ungroupable serotypes, with 20 percent occurring in children too young to be vaccinated. 

The most serious complications of invasive meningococcal disease are meningitis and septicemia (meningococcemia). Meningitis involves the inflammation of the protective layers of the brain and spinal cord and accounts for 75 percent of severe meningococcal infections. Meningococcal disease can also cause meningococcemia, sometimes referred to as blood poisoning. Between five and twenty percent of invasive meningococcal infections result in meningococcemia. Ten to fifteen percent of all invasive meningococcal disease cases result in death. 

Meningococcal disease can also cause long-term residual health problems in cases where it does not prove fatal. Between 10 and 20 percent of survivors suffer serious complications that can include arthritis, infections of the heart or eye, hearing loss, brain damage, loss of limbs or seizure. Children are more likely to suffer complications and long-term serious residual health problems as a result of the disease. 

Less common infections resulting from invasive meningococcal disease include epiglottis, otitis media (ear infection), arthritis, and pneumonia. 

Learn about treatment and prevention and who is at most risk for meningococcal disease.

NVIC “Quick Facts” is not a substitute for becoming fully informed about Meningococcal disease, meningitis and the Meningococcal vaccine. NVIC recommends consumers read the more complete information following the "Quick Facts", as well as the vaccine manufacturer product information inserts, and speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child.

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