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Meningococcal disease

Immune | January 17, 2019 | Author: Naturopath


Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis and its serogroups. The bacteria cause inflammation of the tissue layers that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges) and can lead to septicaemia (poisoning of the blood) which may result in severe brain damage and even death in at least 50% of cases. Septic infection of joints, pneumonia (lung infection) and conjunctivitis (infection of the eye) may also be implicated in rare cases.

Meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning) is when the bacteria has overwhelmed the body and is breaking down blood vessels – causing the characteristic rash. Septicaemia can cause shock and death in a matter of hours.

The incubation time for the development of the disease is usually 4 days, but can be anytime between 2-10 days from time of infection.

Symptoms to look out for

  • Sudden fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Septicaemia – often indicated by a purple – red spotted rash and bruising. 
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Blotchy and pale skin
  • Leg pain

In babies and young children symptoms may include high-pitched crying, loss of appetite or trouble waking and rag-doll appearance.

Note: These symptoms may occur together or separately.

How is meningococcal transmittedWhat to Do

Seek medical assistance immediately if you suspect symptoms might be meningococcal disease. Meningococcal is considered a medical emergency.

How is meningococcal transmitted

The good news about meningococcal disease is that it usually does not survive for long outside of the body. The infection is transmitted from person to person from close personal contact, such as passionate kissing, by aerosol (sneezing or coughing), or direct contact with respiratory secretions (nose and throat) of patients or healthy human carriers.

Interestingly between 5-25% of people carry the bacteria in the back of their nose and throat without showing any symptoms. The disease can overwhelm the body when the immune defences are down, travelling the blood stream to the brain where it causes damage that is life threatening or disabling (brain damage and hearing loss).

People at Risk

Everyone is at risk of being infected with meningococcal causing bacteria Neisseria meningitidis but those at higher risk include:

  • People living in the same household as someone who has been infected
  • Younger folk – babies, children, adolescents and young adults
  • People who kiss passionately with more than one person
  • Smokers and passive smokers
  • People who recently had an upper respiratory infection
  • People who have travelled to countries where the disease is more prevalent
  • Immune compromised individuals
  • People performing CPR (mouth to mouth) without protection


Once the diagnosis of meningococcal disease is applied, antibiotics will be prescribed for the patient and often for others who have been potentially exposed. Meningococcal is a notifiable disease.

Immunization for Prevention of Meningococcal

Through mass preventive immunization campaigns in areas of the world where meningitis is extremely prevalent there has seen a decline in the disease. Identifying the serotype of Neisseria meningitidis is necessary to apply the specific immunization.

Immunization for Prevention of MeningococcalA serotype is a distinct variation of a species of bacteria, virus or immune cells. 

The bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis, and its serogroups can be responsible for sporadic outbreaks of meningococcal disease in small groups and clusters around the world, but most concerning is the potential massive outbreaks that can devastate a society.

This is why immunization is recommended.

At this moment there has been 13 serotypes of Neisseria meningitidis identified of which six (A, B, C, W, X and Y) have been found to cause epidemics. Immunization for serotypes A, B, C, W, Y has been able to reduce the number of diseases caused by these serotypes.


Vaccines against meningococcal disease have been available for over 40 years and improved over time, but there is not one vaccine that will cover all of serotypes known. Instead serogroup specific is used routinely and promptly in an outbreak.

In Australia most of the infections are from serotypes B and W. But we have vaccines available for 5 strains of the disease.

Meningococcal C conjugate vaccine protects against meningococcal group C disease and is suitable for teenagers and adults.

Meningococcal B has 2 vaccines which are given in four doses – at ages 2, 4, 6 and 12 months. Children over 12 months, teenagers and adults are given the vaccine in two doses approximately 2 months apart.
There maybe minor side effects for some people which include a mild to moderate fever and a sore arm. A new vaccine now available, is suitable for over people 10 years of age and over. It is given in two doses 6 months apart.

Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccines (4vMenCV) protects against groups A, C, Y and W strains. This vaccine available free for babies at 12 months of age through the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

VaccinesSome states in Australia offer vaccines for adolescents. Click on your state for information.

New South Wales Click Here

South Australia Click Here 

A C T Click Here 

Victoria Click Here

Western Australia Click Here

Queensland Click Here

Tasmania  Click Here 

Northern Territory Click Here 

Check with your doctor what vaccine is right for you and your family. A script may be needed for some vaccines.

At a Glance

  • Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection from Neisseria meningitidis
  • It is spread from kissing, or nasal secretions such as sneezing and coughing
  • It affects mainly babies, children, teenagers and young adult – but anyone can be infected
  • House holds or those living in close proximity of one another are at risk
  • Vaccines are available from babies to adults
  • Meningococcal septicaemia can kill within hours

Seek Medical help if you have associated with someone who has the disease or fear the symptoms you are experiencing could be the meningococcal disease. Do not wait for the rash to appear.

Support your immune system

If you have experienced an upper respiratory infection or you are immune comprised you may want to support your immune system by for following suggestions.

  • Eating healthy
  • Adequate sleep
  • Reduce stress
  • Take time to recover from illnesses

Supplement with probiotics, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc and selenium to support your immunity.
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