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What is Neisseria meningitidis?

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Neisseria meningitidis is the species of bacteria that causes meningococcal disease, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This disease encompasses meningitis, which is an infection of the central nervous system, and blood infections. Symptoms are often different in children and adults. Neisseria meningitidis infections are very dangerous and, in rare cases, can kill a person within hours of infection.

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Neisseria meningitidis is transferred between people who are in close contact, such as people who kiss or who live together, states the CDC. Any sign of Neisseria meningitidis infection warrants immediate medical attention. Meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis can lead to headaches, nausea, light sensitivity, a sudden fever and a stiff neck. In children, it can lead to irritability, poor reflexes, inactivity and vomiting. Infection of the blood can lead to vomiting, chills, severe aches, tiredness and cold extremities. It can also cause diarrhea, a dark purple rash and rapid breathing.

Neisseria meningitidis infection occurs worldwide but is most common in a region of sub-Saharan Africa, as the CDC explains. Vaccines are available and recommended for those who live in or travel to areas where the disease is prevalent. Children often need more than one round of the vaccine, and adults should renew their vaccines every five years.

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