Meningitis B: What you need to know

meningitis in infants

The bacteria Neisseria meningitidis causes meningitis B, which is a serogroup of meningitis. In the United States, Europe, and Australia, it is one of the most common serogroups of meningitis.

The risk of N. meningitidis meningitis is highest among adolescents and children under the age of five, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the Meningitis B Action Project, it is the most common kind of bacterial meningitis in young people.

Meningitis B can be fatal if not treated. Vaccination is critical for reducing the spread of the disease and avoiding serious sequelae.

The symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention of meningitis B are all discussed in this article. It also considers the outlook and when a person should seek medical help.

What is meningitis B?

meningitis in infants

Meningitis is an infection of the meninges — the lining of the brain and spinal cord.

The N. meningitidis bacteria causes meningitis B, a kind of meningococcal disease. The bacteria usually dwell in the throat. If they enter the bloodstream, they can move to the meninges and infect them.

Meningitis can also result in bacteremia, or blood poisoning, which is a blood infection.

N. meningitidis has 12 serogroups, with serogroups A, B, C, W135, X, and Y producing the most infections.

Serogroups B, C, and Y are the most common in the United States.

In the United States, this condition is uncommon. Meningococcal disease, on the other hand, can kill 10–15 people out of every 100 people infected, according to the CDC.

People who recover from their injuries may suffer long-term consequences. Long-term effects, such as hearing loss, brain damage, kidney damage, and nervous system disorders, can affect 10–20 people out of every 100.

Meningitis B is a medical emergency that can kill in as little as hours. People should seek medical help as soon as they observe any signs or symptoms of meningitis.


Symptoms of bacterial meningitis appear 3–7 days after exposure. The symptoms may be similar to those of the flu, although they differ from person to person.

The infection starts in the upper respiratory system and then spreads to the brain through the circulation.

In babies and toddlers

Meningitis is more common in babies and toddlers under the age of one year, and symptoms can be difficult to spot.

The following are some of the signs and symptoms that can be seen in babies:

  • inactivity or slowness
  • irritability
  • vomiting
  • a decrease in appetite
  • bulging of the soft spot of the head, or fontanelle
  • abnormal reflexes
  • rash

According to the Meningitis Research Foundation, the first symptoms usually include fever, vomiting, severe headache, and feeling unwell.

Other symptoms include:

  • a stiff neck
  • sensitivity to lights, or photophobia
  • feeling very sleepy or being difficult to wake up
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • rash

In adolescents and adults

Primary symptoms of meningitis B in adults include:

  • severe headache
  • sudden fever
  • stiff neck

Other symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to light
  • rapid breathing
  • convulsions
  • sleepiness
  • cold hands and feet
  • shivering
  • confusion
  • rash

Meningitis rash

A rash that occurs all over the body is one indication of meningitis.

Toxins are produced by bacteria as they travel through the circulation and grow, causing organ and blood vessel damage.

Blood leaks into the surrounding tissue from the injured blood vessels. A rash arises as a result of this. A rash, on the other hand, does not always appear.

If it works, various skin types will see it differently.

Causes and methods of transmission

Approximately one out of every ten people can carry bacteria in the back of their nose or mouth without feeling ill.

When bacteria burst through the lining at the back of the throat, they enter the bloodstream and move throughout the body, causing meningitis B. Bacteremia can result if the bacteria infect the meninges.

Meningitis B spreads through droplets, such as saliva.

Meningitis B can be contracted by:

  • sharing anything that has come into contact with saliva
  • being in close quarters
  • kissing
  • sharing cigarettes and electronic cigarettes
  • being sneezed or coughed on

Risk factors 

Certain factors increase a person’s risk of getting meningitis B, including:

  • Age: Children under the age of 1 year and students between the ages of 16–23 years are more likely to contract meningitis B.
  • Setting: The disease spreads among large groups of people who live in close quarters, such as college students. People who live in the same household as a person with the infection are also at risk.
  • Autoimmune or other medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as HIV, can increase a person’s chance of contracting meningitis B.
  • Travel: People may have a greater chance of contracting the N. meningitidis bacteria if they travel to places with a higher prevalence.


To help prevent contracting meningitis B, a person can adopt the following habits

  • cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • wash the hands often with soap and water
  • avoid close contact with those who are ill
  • get plenty of rest
  • avoid smoking

MenB vaccine

The MenACWY vaccination is recommended for all children aged 11–12 years old, with a booster dose at 16 years old, according to the CDC. MenACWY vaccinations protect against serogroups A, C, W, and Y meningococcal disease.

The MenB vaccination is available to those aged 16 to 23, as well as those who are at an elevated risk of meningococcal disease, such as:

  • those at risk due to an outbreak
  • those who have a damaged spleen or those without a spleen, including those with sickle cell disease
  • those with complement component deficiency, which is a rare condition that affects the immune system
  • those taking complement inhibitor drugs, such as eculizumab or ravulizumab
  • microbiologists who work with N. meningitidis

Meningococcal vaccinations have a moderate side effect that affects more than half of people who receive the vaccine.

A sore arm is the most frequent problem, and it usually only lasts a few days.

Other bad effects include:

  • swelling at the injection site
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • muscle or joint pain
  • fever
  • chills
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

Vaccines can be obtained via a doctor’s office, a health facility, or a pharmacy.

There’s also a HealthMap Vaccine Locator tool.


Meningitis B is a medical emergency that will be treated as quickly as possible with antibiotics by healthcare specialists.

Doctors may also treat people who have come into touch with someone who has meningitis B as a precaution.

A person may additionally require the following, depending on the severity of the condition:

  • breathing support
  • medications to help treat low blood pressure
  • wound care for damaged skin
  • surgery to remove any dead tissue


Approximately 25% of meningococcal disease people will develop complications.

Complications that can last a long time include:

  • hearing loss
  • kidney damage
  • loss of limbs
  • nervous system problems
  • severe scars from skin grafts
  • seizures
  • speech loss
  • memory loss

Meningitis B can be fatal if left untreated.


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke points out that a person’s outlook is influenced by how quickly they receive treatment and the severity of their sickness.

Those who have bacterial meningitis will feel better 48–72 hours following treatment. They are, nevertheless, more likely to have complications than people who have merely had a little sickness.

Infections that are severe can have long-term consequences. If this happens, medication, supportive care, and long-term therapy may be required.

Bacterial meningitis is associated with a 10–15% fatality rate.

When should you see a doctor?

If you experience signs of meningitis B, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Even if there is no rash, if a caregiver detects any symptoms of meningitis B in an infant, they should contact a healthcare expert right away.


Meningitis B is a dangerous bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord that is extremely rare.

Individuals may get severe flu-like symptoms such as nausea and vomiting quickly.

Meningitis B is a medical emergency, and a doctor will prescribe antibiotics as soon as possible.

People who adopt healthy habits like hand washing and acquire the MenB vaccine are less likely to contract meningitis B.