Skip to main content


There has been an error in displaying this message. Please contact the site administrator.

Health advisory: Meningococcal meningitis

Written By: Shelley Vanker, UT Physicians | Updated: February 23, 2024
Meningococcal Meningitis Alert Banner

Meningococcal meningitis is a vaccine-preventable disease. The CDC recommends a first dose during preteen or teenage years.

A health advisory has been issued for the Greater Houston area following cases of meningococcal meningitis. The advisory was issued by Harris County Public Health and Houston Health Department on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.      

Luis Z. Ostrosky, MD
Luis Z. Ostrosky, MD

“This infection is highly transmissible and if not caught in time, could turn deadly,” said Luis Z. Ostrosky, MD, infectious disease expert at UT Physicians.

Harris County Public Health and the Houston Health Department are monitoring the cases and have not released the number of patients admitted to local hospitals, but Ostrosky says the entities have asked health care providers and health departments to be on high alert for potential cases.

Symptoms of meningitis

The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to light

Transmission and spread

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that is spread through saliva, typically by sharing food or drinks, speaking, and kissing.

“It usually enters through your respiratory tract when you’re breathing in droplets from somebody who’s infected,” said Ostrosky, professor and vice chair for health care quality at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.

He said patients fall ill within a week of infection as the bacteria quickly disseminates from the lungs to the bloodstream.

“It has an affinity for the brain where it causes very dramatic swelling of the brain, which then causes headaches, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, and eventually altered mental status,” he said.

Transmission usually occurs among young adults in settings such as schools, colleges, and military barracks.

Preventing the spread of meningitis

“It’s not an uncommon disease. Every hospital sees a few cases per year, mostly in adolescents and young adults, but we are at the beginning of the year and we’re already seeing an increase in cases,” he said.

This is a vaccine-preventable disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a first dose of vaccine for all preteens and teens. Ostrosky says a second dose is recommended for people before attending college or joining the military.

Providers with UT Physicians can administer vaccines for meningococcal meningitis.

For parents and caregivers interested in scheduling an appointment with one of our pediatric experts, visit our children’s health page or call us at 888-488-3627.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.