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Meningococcal Disease

What is Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal meningitis is inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and may lead to meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning by the meningococcus bacteria).

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. Meningococcal disease is transmitted by direct contact via droplets of respiratory secretions from the nose and throat of infected persons.

The disease most often occurs in children younger than 5 years of age. It is also common in older children and young adults. Immunocompromised person with low immunity and those in close contact with a known case, as well as travelers to endemic areas of the world, are also at increased risk .

Signs and Symptoms

Up to 5 – 10 % of people may be symptomless carriers. The signs and symptoms are :

  • intense headache
  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stiff neck
  • discomfort looking into bright lights
  • rash
  • other symptoms: drowsiness and confusion
  • seizure
  • lost of consciousness

In newborns and young infants, they may only appear inactive, irritable, feed poorly or accompanied by vomiting.


Death happen :

  • 5 and 15% of cases with adequate therapy
  • >50% without treatment
  • 20% of those who survive will suffer from significant neurological problems including deafness and paralysis


Immediate antibiotic injections is the mainstay of treatment

Antibiotic chemoprophylaxis (i.e. prevention of disease through the use of antibiotics) is recommended for close contacts only. Vaccination after exposure is not effective for prevention.


Meningococcal vaccine:

  • vaccine are called Meningococcal Quadrivalent Vaccine ACYW-135
  • recommended for travellers to meningococcal endemic areas eg. Africa, South America and Middle East
  • should be taken 2 weeks before travel and can last approximately three to five years.
  • routine immunization of children is not recommended
Last reviewed : 26 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Fuad Hashim
Reviewer : Dato’ Dr. Hj. Md Hanip b. Rafia