Meningitis B is a serogroup of meningitis that occurs as a result of the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. It is one of the most common serogroups of meningitis in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
It is the most common type of bacterial meningitis in young adults, according to the Meningitis B Action Project.
Without treatment, meningitis B can be deadly. Vaccination is key to limiting the spread and preventing severe complications.
This article discusses what meningitis B is, its symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention. It also looks at the outlook and when a person should contact a doctor.
Meningitis is an infection of the meninges — the lining of the brain and spinal cord.
Meningitis B is a type of meningococcal disease that occurs due to the N. meningitidis bacteria. Typically, the bacteria live in the throat. However, if they pass into the bloodstream, they can travel to, and infect, the meninges.
Meningitis can also cause an infection of the blood called bacteremia, or blood poisoning.
There are 12 serogroups of N. meningitidis, with serogroups A, B, C, W135, X, and Y causing the
In the U.S., serogroups B, C, and Y are
This condition is rare in the U.S. However, according to the
People who recover may have long-term injuries. Approximately 10–20 out of 100 people may develop long-term complications, such as hearing loss, brain damage, kidney damage, and problems with their nervous system.
Meningitis B is a medical emergency and can lead to death in
Bacterial meningitis symptoms occur within
The condition begins as an upper respiratory tract infection and then travels through the bloodstream to the brain.
In babies and toddlers
Babies and toddlers under
Symptoms in babies include:
- inactivity or slowness
- a decrease in appetite
- bulging of the soft spot of the head, or fontanelle
- abnormal reflexes
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
In adolescents and adults
- severe headache
- sudden fever
- stiff neck
Other symptoms include:
- sensitivity to light
- rapid breathing
- cold hands and feet
One symptom of meningitis is a rash that appears all over the body.
As the bacteria travel through the bloodstream and multiply, they produce toxins that damage the organs and blood vessels.
Blood leaks from the damaged blood vessels into the surrounding tissue. This causes what appears to be a rash. However, a rash does not always appear.
If it does, it can appear differently on different skin types.
Meningitis B occurs when the bacteria break through the lining at the back of the throat, enter the bloodstream, and travel around the body. The bacteria can then infect the meninges and lead to bacteremia.
Meningitis B spreads through droplets, such as saliva.
A person may contract meningitis B by:
- sharing anything that has come into contact with saliva
- being in close quarters
- sharing cigarettes and electronic cigarettes
- being sneezed or coughed on
- Age: Children under the age of 1 year and students between the ages of 16–23 years are
more likelyto 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
- 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 vaccines include Bexsero and Trumenba.
Those aged 16–23 years can get the MenB vaccine, as well as those who are at an increased risk of meningococcal disease, including:
- 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
A sore arm is most common and usually only lasts a couple of days.
Other side effects include:
Vaccinations are available at doctor’s offices, health centers, or pharmacies.
A HealthMap Vaccine locator tool is also available.
Meningitis B is a medical emergency, and healthcare professionals will treat it as soon as possible using antibiotics.
Doctors may also treat those in contact with someone with meningitis B as a preventative measure.
Depending on the severity of the condition, a person may also require:
- breathing support
- medications to help treat low blood pressure
- wound care for damaged skin
- surgery to remove any dead tissue
Long-term complications include:
- hearing loss
- kidney damage
- loss of limbs
- nervous system problems
- severe scars from skin grafts
- speech loss
- memory loss
Without treatment, meningitis B can lead to death.
Following treatment, those with bacterial meningitis will experience relief after 48–72 hours. However, they are more likely to develop complications than those who experienced only mild illness.
Severe infections may cause long-term
The mortality rate for those with bacterial meningitis is
A person should consult with a doctor as soon as possible if they have symptoms of meningitis B.
If a caregiver notices any symptoms of meningitis B in an infant, they should contact a healthcare professional immediately, even if a rash is not present.
Meningitis B is a rare but serious bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord.
Individuals may experience a rapid onset of severe flu-like symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.
Meningitis B is considered a medical emergency, and a doctor will quickly recommend antibiotics for treatment.