At a glance:
Meningococcal disease can present as either:
- Meningococcal meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
- Meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning)
- 5 most common types: A, B, C, W & Y
Most likely to become infected:
- Overseas travellers
- People in close contact with infected persons or carriers
Signs and Symptoms:
- Meningitis: fevers, nausea/vomiting, lethargy, confusion/disorientation, dizziness, backache, stiff/painful neck, sensitivity to light, twitching/convulsions
- Septicaemia: Fevers with cold hands and feet, nausea/vomiting, lethargy, confusion/disorientation, dizziness, pain in muscles/joints/abdomen/chest, pale/grey/blotchy skin, rash that does not disappear with pressure
- Vaccination against type C is part of routine childhood vaccination now
- ACWY vaccination available for persons travelling overseas
- Vaccination for type B now available in Australia
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can present as meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or septicaemia (blood poisoning). There are 5 main strains of meningococcal, A, B, C, W & Y, and it is recommended for overseas travellers to be vaccinated against A, C, W &Y. It is important to note that only type C is routinely vaccinated against as part of the Australian Childhood Vaccination Program.
Meningococcal meningitis, also known as bacterial meningitis, is the most serious form of meningitis and if untreated can result in permanent injury, or even in some cases- death. Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include: high fevers, nausea/vomiting, lethargy, confusion/disorientation, dizziness, backache, stiff/painful neck, sensitivity to light and/or twitching/convulsions.
Meningococcal septicaemia is known as the most dangerous of these two forms of meningococcal disease; it occurs when meningococcal bacteria enters the blood stream and reproduces very rapidly. This rapid reproduction causes damage to the blood vessel walls causing bleeding under the skin which results in the tell-tale rash associated with this disease. If not treated swiftly, this disease can lead to permanent injury, including brain damage, deafness and, again, in some cases death. Symptoms of meningococcal septicaemia include: fever with cold hands and feet, nausea/vomiting, lethargy, confusion/disorientation, dizziness, pain in muscles/joints/abdomen/chest, pale/grey/blotchy skin, rapid breathing, diarrhoea and/or the tell-tale rash.
In babies and toddlers, symptoms of meningococcal disease may present as: Lethargy, irritability, refusal to eat, crying and a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on top of head) alongside the symptoms mentioned before.
The meningococcal rash is verydistinctive, it begins looking like little red pin pricks and then develops into large red/purple ‘blotches’ on the skin that may look like bruising. How to differentiate between a meningococcal rash and a typical rash is that meningococcal rashes do not disappear when pressure is applied to them. A trick to see if this rash disappears or not is to press a clear drinking glass against the skin, if you can still see the rash through the glass when applying pressure you should seek medical assistant as soon as possible.
People who are most likely to become infected with the meningococcal bacteria are: persons who have regular close contact with someone who is infected with or is a carrier for the bacteria (i.e. living with or having close physical contact with), people with lowered immune systems (i.e. people who are ill, people with conditions affecting their immune response, people without a spleen, the elderly and the young) and persons travelling to areas with high rates of meningococcal infection such as sub-Saharan Africa.
For further information, speak with one of our Doctors. Addittional information also available at the below links: