Meningitis B: What you need to know

What is meningitis B, how do you spot it, and the new vaccine

Vaccination

All babies in the UK are offered the meningitis B vaccine at two months, but there are calls for it to be offered to all children.

What is meningitis B?

Meningitis B is a bacterial infection that is most commonly found in children under five years old. It’s a potentially fatal illness, but with early diagnosis and antibiotics most people will make a full recovery.

How to spot meningitis

Symptoms of meningitis in a baby or young child include:

  • A high fever with cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting and refusal to feed
  • Agitation and not wanting to be picked up
  • Drowsiness, floppiness and unresponsiveness
  • Grunting or rapid breathing
  • An unusual high-pitched or moaning cry
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Stiff neck and a dislike of bright lights
  • A tense, bulging soft spot on their head (fontanelle)
  • Pale, blotchy skin and a red rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it

However, the above symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all – don’t wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical help, because not everyone will get one.

The new meningitis B vaccine

All babies in the UK are now offered the meningitis B vaccine at two months alongside other routine vaccinations. It’s given as a single injection into the baby’s thigh, and booster jabs are given at four months and 12 months.

The decision was made to offer the jab to those most at risk, as cases of meningitis B peak in infants at around five or six months of age.

The vaccine is relatively new and the UK is the first country in the world to add the jab to its routine childhood vaccination programme. The jab has been found to be safe and well-tolerated in trials involving more than 8,000 people.

Read more about the Men B vaccination on NHS Choices here.

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