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Meningococcal Disease by the Numbers

Facts and figures about meningitis B and meningococcal disease, including information about outbreaks and complications.

Meningococcal Disease by the Numbers

Meningitis B (MenB) is a potentially life-threatening form of meningococcal disease. It is caused by a bacterial infection that invades and inflames the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord. Those who recover can be left with major complications such as hearing loss, skin and tissue damage, and loss of limbs. The infection can also spread to the bloodstream and cause a severe blood infection called septicemia. Here are some of the key statistics around meningitis B and meningococcal disease.

The basics

  • 1 in 10. Approximately 1 in 10 people are carriers of meningococcal disease. People who carry the bacteria do not exhibit any signs or symptoms, but can unknowingly transmit it to others through respiratory droplets or saliva. Sharing utensils or water bottles, or kissing, or just being in close proximity can all contribute to the spread (however, it should be noted that meningitis B is not as contagious as a cold or flu).
  • 5. There are five major serogroups of meningococcal-causing bacteria: A, C, W, Y and B. MenB is caused by serogroup B.
  • One-third. The percentage of cases of meningococcal disease in the U.S. caused by serogroup B bacteria.
  • 2 to 10 days. The incubation period for meningococcal disease can be as short as 2 days and take as long as 10 days, with an average incubation period of 4 days.

Cases and age groups

  • 300 to 350. The number of cases of meningococcal disease in the United States in a given year.
  • One year. Most cases of meningococcal disease occur in children younger than one year.
  • 16 to 23 years. Teens and young adults in this age group represent a significant percentage of MenB cases.

Death, survival, and complications

  • Up to 50 percent. The percentage of meningococcal disease cases that are fatal when left untreated.
  • 10 to 15 percent. The percentage of meningococcal disease cases that are fatal even with treatment.
  • 10 to 20 percent. The percentage of people who survive meningococcal disease who experience serious complications such as brain damage, nerve damage, hearing loss, severe scarring, and loss of limbs.

The importance of prevention
The chances of complications and death from meningococcal disease are greatly reduced by receiving treatment early. But prevention is also key. Teens should be encouraged to take basic precautions against transmission. Also, the MenB vaccine may help protect against meningitis B. It’s preferably administered in teens between 16 and 18 years old. You can talk to your family’s healthcare provider to learn more about vaccination options.

Medically reviewed in May 2020.

Sources:
Columbia University Department of Neurology. "Bacterial Meningitis."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningitis."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Bacterial Meningitis."
Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Bacterial Meningitis."
Meningitis Now. "Hearing loss."
Meningitis Now. "After-effects of septicaemia."
Meningitis Now. "Meningococcal disease."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal Disease: Causes and Spread to Others."
National Meningitis Association. "How is it spread?"
Meningitis Now. "Meningococcal disease."
National Meningitis Association. "Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease."
Meningitis Now. "After-effects of septicaemia."
Lucy A. McNamara and Amy Blain. "Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease." Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal Disease: Surveillance Data."
World Health Organization. "Meningococcal meningitis."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal Disease: Surveillance."
National Meningitis Association. "Statistics and Disease Facts."
Heidi M. Soeters, Lucy A. McNamara, et al. "University-Based Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease Caused by Serogroup B, United States, 2013–2018." Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2019. Vol. 25, No. 3.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal B VIS."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal Disease."
National Meningitis Association. "Who should be vaccinated?"

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