What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the fluid and membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Meningitis affects 1 million people every year worldwide.1

Meningococcal meningitis

There are many different serogroups (or types) of bacteria that can cause meningococcal disease, with 6 known for being the most prevalent worldwide: A, B, C, W, X and Y.2

Over 90% of cases of meningococcal meningitis worldwide are caused by A,B,C, X and Y strains.3

These strains can also cause a variety of other diseases, including septicaemia, which occurs when meningitis bacteria enter the bloodstream. This condition may be seen alone, or in addition to, meningitis.1

Symptoms and diagnosis

The early symptoms can be misleading as they are flu-like in nature (e.g. irritability, fever, loss of appetite)4 making diagnosis difficult.5

It’s important to react quickly as the disease can lead to death in less than 24 hours.6

Classic signs of meningococcal disease include fever, headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, photophobia (being sensitive to light) and confusion.

To diagnose, samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid are tested for the N.meningitidis bacteria5.


Fast diagnosis and treatment, with appropriate antibiotics, is imperative as death can occur as rapidly as within 24 hours of disease onset5, 6.

People who have been in close contact with anyone infected with meningococcal disease should also receive antibiotics to prevent infection.7

Depending on how serious the infection is, people with meningococcal disease may need other treatments including breathing support, medications to treat low blood pressure, and wound care for areas with damaged skin.5


About 1 in 10 people have meningococcal bacteria in the back of their nose or throat with no signs or symptoms of the disease; this is being called ‘a carrier’.

Sometimes the bacteria invade the body and cause certain illnesses, which are known as meningococcal disease.

It takes close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria. Fortunately, they are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or the flu.

Students Take a Stand against Meningitis
Sanofi Pasteur Commitment to meningococcal prevention


  1. CoMO – Types of Meningitis.
    Available at: http://www.comomeningitis.org/facts-about-meningitis/types-of-meningitis/. Accessed 05.04.18
  2. Crum-Cianflone, N. and Sullivan, E. (2016). Meningococcal Vaccinations. Infectious Diseases and Therapy, 5(2), pp.89-112.
  3. Nadel, S. (2012). Prospects for eradication of meningococcal disease. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 97(11), pp.993-998
  4. CDC – Meningococcal disease – Signs and Symptoms. Accessed 22.03.18
    Available at: http://www.comomeningitis.org/facts-about-meningitis/types-of-meningitis/
  5. CDC. Meningococcal disease – Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications.Accessed 22.03.18.
    Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/diagnosis-treatment.html
  6. Branco, R., Amoretti, C. and Tasker, R. (2007). Meningococcal disease and meningitis. Journal de Pediatria, 83(7), pp.46-53.
  7. CDC. Meningococcal Disease – Prevention. Accessed 22.03.18.
    Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/prevention.html