Verified on 03/20/2024 by Alexane Flament, Editor

Meningitis is an infection of the spinal cord and meninges (coverings surrounding the brain). It can be serious in certain cases, with irreversible neurological damage.

Fortunately, it is possible to prevent this disease through vaccination.

What causes meningitis?

Several types of viruses, bacteria and fungi can cause meningitis. Meningitis of bacterial origin is generally the most serious.

THE meningococci (H. influenzae, N. meningitis, and S. pneumoniae) are the bacteria most often responsible for acute meningitis. The bacteria responsible for meningitis live in the throat and nose.

They enter the body through a local respiratory or ENT infection such as angina, otitis or sinusitis.

Sometimes these bacteria end up in the blood and manage to infect the cerebrospinal fluid (liquid in which the brain and spinal cord bathe). Which leads to edema and inflammation of the meninges.

Meningitis caused by a fungus is rarer but more severe. The main fungus causing meningitis is Cryptococcus neoformans whose reservoir is made up of pigeon droppings.

Meningitis of viral origin is generally benign. Affected people recover without after-effects after a few days.

A disease that can kill and leave serious after-effects

Preventing meningitis of bacterial origin is a public health issue because meningococcal infections have a high mortality rate (10%) and can cause epidemics.

Meningococcal meningitis leaves serious after-effects in one in five survivors (deafness, amputation, cognitive disorders, learning difficulties, etc.). They can also lead to death from septic shock.

The best prevention is vaccination. Today there are several effective vaccines against certain types of meningococci, pneumococcus, haemophilus influenzae type B and certain viral diseases sometimes causing inflammation of the meninges (measles, mumps, etc.).

The meningococcal C vaccine

It is compulsory for infants born after January 1, 2018. Vaccination is done at the age of five months followed by a booster at 12 months. A catch-up vaccination can be carried out in a single dose for people between 12 months and 24 years of age.

The meningococcal B vaccine

It has been recommended since April 2022. Vaccination is given in two injections at 3 and 5 months followed by a booster at 12 months.

A booster vaccination every 5 years is also recommended for people at continued risk of exposure to meningococcal B infections.

The pneumococcus vaccine

Vaccination is compulsory for infants born since January 1, 2018 and involves two injections two months apart (two and four months); a booster at the age of 11 months.

Haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine

Vaccination is compulsory for infants born since January 1, 2018, combined with vaccinations against diphtheriatetanus and poliomyelitis:

  • one injection at two months and one at four months;
  • a booster at 11 months.

A catch-up vaccination can be done up to the age of 5. It needs :

  • two doses and a booster between 6 and 12 months;
  • a single dose beyond 12 months and up to 5 years.
Annabelle Iglesias


March 20, 2024, at 1:43 p.m.

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