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