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What Are the Symptoms of Meningitis and How Can It Spread?

Meningitis is an infection that affects the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. There are various groups of meningitis, including bacterial, viral, parasitic, amoebic, chronic and non-infectious meningitis.

One type of bacterial meningitis is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. This bacterial meningitis is called meningitis B.


What Is Meningitis B?

Meningitis B is a bacterial disease that can cause an infection in the bloodstream (septicemia). It can also cause swelling in affected areas of the brain and spinal cord, specifically, the lining of the brain and spinal cord.

Meningitis B is a serious illness that can progress quickly with a high fatality risk, so it's vital to protect against the disease and get the meningococcal B vaccine.

Furthermore, a study found that 1 in 5 individuals who have survived the illness exhibited long term disabilities as a side effect. Conditions could include hearing loss, brain damage, problems in the nervous system, kidney damage, loss of limbs, and skin scarring.


What Are the Symptoms of Meningitis B?

  • A sudden high fever
  • Stiff neck
  • A severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Collapsing

Symptoms can surface as soon as the individual gets infected with Neisseria meningitidis or within a week of exposure. As meningitis B can be fatal, patients should seek immediate medical attention if symptoms are suspected or displayed.

Symptoms of meningitis B in toddlers and babies may also include:

  • Inflammation in the fontanelle (an area that facilitates the growth of the brain and the skull)
  • Irritability
  • Rejection towards food
  • Twitching
  • Agitation


Risk Factors of Meningitis B

Studies have shown that meningitis B is more common in certain age groups:

  • Children under the age of 5;
  • Teenagers and young adults aged 16 to 25;
  • Adults over the age of 55

The bacteria that causes meningitis is easily spread and highly contagious. Therefore, meningitis outbreaks are more likely to occur in locations where individuals live close to each other, such as college dormitories or military bases.

Other high-risk factors:

  •  Damaged or removed spleen, such as sickle cell disease.
  • Weakened immune systems.
  • Consuming complement inhibitor types of drugs, such as eculizumab or ravulizumad
  • Microbiologists who work with isolated Neisseria meningitidis.
  • A rare immune system condition called complement component deficiency.


How Does Meningitis B Spread?

Neisseria meningitidis spreads through respiratory or throat secretions and by close contact with an infected individual. For example, from saliva or spit when coughing, kissing, or sneezing.

Certain lifestyle habits can also increase the risk of meningitis B infection. For example, sharing food, utensils and smoking devices.


Meningococcal B Vaccine

The meningitis B vaccine, also known as the meningococcal B vaccine, is given to protect against the disease.

Meningococcal B Vaccination Schedule (Bexsero)

Age Group Primary Immunisation Intervals Between Primary Doses Booster
2 months to 5 months Two or three doses plus a booster 1 - 2 months apart Booster dose between 12 and 15 months
6 months to 11 months Two doses plus a booster 2 months apart Booster dose at least 2 months after the primary doses but before two years of age
12 months to 23 months Two doses plus a booster 2 months apart Booster dose 12 months to 23 months after the primary dose
2 years to 10 years Two doses 2 months apart Need for booster not established
11 years to adults* Two doses 1-2 months apart Need for booster not established

*There is no data on adults above 50 years of age.

In Hong Kong, the meningococcal vaccine is not part of the government childhood immunisation program as the disease is not prevalent. This vaccine is only provided privately. You can see the entire Hong Kong childhood immunisation schedule here.


Side Effects

Reported side effects from the meningitis B vaccine include high fever within the 24 hours of receiving the vaccination, pain and swelling in the area of injection, as well as diarrhoea, feeling sick, crying, or irritability. However, these side effects are temporary. In the long term, the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweigh the temporary side effects.


Antibiotics for Meningitis B

Besides the vaccination, meningitis B can also be treated with antibiotics as it is a bacterial infection. The most appropriate antibiotics would be prescribed to the patient by the doctor for effective treatment.


Vaccination at OT&P

At OT&P, we offer an extensive range of vaccinations and specialists to ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date. Contact us today to discuss the best vaccination plan. You can also see what vaccinations are required with our vaccine calculator.


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  1. (2020). ‘What is Meningitis B?’. GlaxoSmithKline. June 2020. Available at: <>. [Accessed 29 September 2021]
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). ‘Meningococcal B Vaccine: What You Need to Know’. CDC. 6 Aug 2021. Available at: <>. [Accessed 29 September 2021]
  3. Whelan, C. (2021). ‘What to Know About Meningitis B’. Healthline. 23 June 2021. Available at: <>. [Accessed 29 September 2021]
  4. National Health Service. (2021). ‘MenB vaccine overview’. NHS. 30 June 2021. Available at: <>. [Accessed 29 September 2021]
  5. WebMD. (2020). ‘Meningitis’. WebMD. Available at: <>. [Accessed 29 September 2021
  6. (2021). ‘Facts about meningitis B’. GlaxoSmithKline. May 2021. Available at: <>. [Accessed 29 September 2021]

Topics: Health & Wellness, Vaccinations

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OT&P Healthcare

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