Meningitis B

What is Meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious bacterial infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be fatal within 24 hours1. Four groups of meningococcal bacteria (known as B, C, W and Y) cause over 90% of meningococcal infections in England2.

It can be hard even for doctors to recognise the early symptoms of meningitis; quite often it can look like the flu3, while the symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all.


You should immediately seek medical advice if you are concerned that you or your child may have meningitis

Fortunately cases of meningitis in the UK are rare, but anyone can get it. Meningitis can be very serious if not treated quickly.

It can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (septicaemia) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves4 and it can be deadly within twenty four hours1.

Even if you survive meningitis or other forms of Invasive Meningococcal Disease, you can be left with long-term medical disabilities4.

Symptoms of Meningitis4 

  • High temperature (38°C or above)
  • Blotchy rash that doesn't fade when rolled under a clear glass
  • Drowsiness or unresponsiveness
  • Aversion to bright lights
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A headache
  • Being sick
  • Stiff neck
  • Seizures/fits

Who is most at risk?4,5,6,7 

Infants & Young Children (0-4 yrs)

Babies and young children are at highest risk as their immune systems are not fully developed

Teens & Young Adults (15-24 yrs)

Adolescents & young adults are more likely to participate in activities that lead to the spread of Meningitis

Older Adults (60+ years of age)

Older adults can be more vulnerable, because their ageing immune systems are less able to fight infections

Travellers (All age groups)

People who travel to countries with high occurrences of the disease will have an increased risk

Immunocompromised (All age groups)

Individuals who have compromised immune systems will have a higher risk of contracting the disease

Meningitis can affect anyone, but it is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.

The bacteria that cause meningitis can spread through common adolescent and young adult behaviours like kissing, sharing a drink or food, or even just hanging out in crowded areas.

If you travel to countries where meningococcal meningitis is more common you could be exposed to the bacteria.

At its peak, up to one in five adolescents and young adults can carry the bacteria that leads to meningococcal meningitis, but you can’t tell who because it can be carried in the throat without causing symptoms.

One in twenty who develop meningococcal disease die.
Death rates are higher for teenagers and young adults.*

How is Meningitis spread?1,4,8 

Common social behaviours and environmental factors can promote the spread of the bacteria that causes meningococcal meningitis:



Being in crowded places

Living in close quarters

Sharing cutlery, drinks & toothbrushes

Although infants and young children (younger than 5 years of age) can get meningococcal meningitis most often, in many countries there is a second peak of the disease at 15-24 years of age. Adolescents and young adults are also more likely, without showing symptoms, to carry the bacteria that causes meningitis.

Stages of Meningitis ³

0-8 hours

Headache, sore throat, thirst, general aches, fever

8+ hours

Decreased appetite, nausea/vomiting, leg pain, miserable/irritability

12+ hours

Drowsy, breathing difficulty, diarrhoea, neck stiffness, cold hands & feet

16+ hours

Sensivity to light, abnormal skin colour, rash, confusion/delerium, unconsciousness, seizures

*24 hours*

Invasive meningococcal disease progresses rapidly. Even with medical treatment consequences can be severe.

Protecting yourself & your family

You can reduce the likelihood of contracting meningococcal disease by being aware of the risks and limiting your exposure to the common routes of infection. 

You can also be more proactive by being vaccinated. 

Vaccines are available to help protect against the most common groups (ACWY and B) of meningococcal bacteria, but there is no single vaccine that helps to protect against all five groups that cause the majority of meningococcal disease in England9.

Men B Vaccines - ACWY
Meningitis B Vaccine

There is no single vaccine that protects against all types of meningococcal bacteria – at least two vaccines are needed. These include one vaccine covering A, C, W and Y groups, and one vaccine covering the B group9.

6 Reasons to get Vaccinated

Meningitis can be fatal within 24 hours.

The bacteria that causes meningitis can spread via normal behaviours, like kissing or sharing drinks.

Vaccines are available to help protect against the most common groups (ACWY and B) of meningococcal bacteria.

It can be hard for doctors to recognise the early symptoms of meningitis; it can look like the flu.

Even if you survive meningitis, you can be left with long-term medical disabilities.

Meningitis is uncommon but unpredictable and can be fatal; why risk it when vaccination can help prevent it?

Getting yourself vaccinated

In September 2015, Meningitis B vaccinations were introduced to the routine immunisation schedule of babies and young children. However, teenagers and young adults will not have had access to them routinely on the NHS.

You can help to protect yourself through a simple course of Meningitis B vaccinations at your local Alphega Pharmacy. You can choose between having two (at 0 and 6 months) or three (at 0, 1 and 5 months) vaccinations.

Our specially trained pharmacists will assess you for suitability for the vaccine by asking a short series of questions. If suitable, they will then explain the process, possible side effects** and finally administer the vaccine into your upper arm if you are happy to go ahead.

They will then arrange your next appointment for you to receive your second vaccine.

If you would like to know more or make an appointment for a vaccination, contact your local Alphega Pharmacy offering this service. Please call ahead to book your first appointment.

Please note there will be a charge for this service, contact your nearest Alphega Pharmacy for more information. 

24 hrs
Meningitis can be FATAL in 24 hours


  1. World Health Organization. Meningococcal meningitis, fact sheet No.141, November 2015. Available at: June 2017).
  3. Thompson MJ, et al. Clinical recognition of meningococcal disease in children and adolescents. Lancet. 2006;367:397–403.
  4. (accessed December 2018)
  5. Memish ZA, et al. Invasive meningococcal disease and travel. J Infect Pub Health. 2010;3:143-151.
  6. Christensen H, et al. Meningococcal carriage by age: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2010;10:853-61.
  7. Meningococcal disease – University of Oxford Vaccine Knowledge Project. Available at
  9. Public Health England. Infection Report, Vol.10 No.37, Published 28 October 2016. Invasive meningococcal disease. Available at:

**Side effects10

In most cases, meningitis B vaccinations do not cause any significant side effects although there are some which are very common:

  • Soreness, redness and swelling around the injection site
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Fatigue-