What is Meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria Meningitidis. This bacterium can cause serious and sometimes fatal diseases including meningitis ( infection of the brain lining) and meningococcal septicemia (infection of the blood.
There are many different subtypes of the bacteria, but five of the subtypes (A,B,C,Y and W135) are responsible for the majority of meningococcal cases.
How is it transmitted?
Meningococcal disease is spread from close and prolonged contact with an infected person through saliva or secretions (fluids) from the nose and throat. Examples include kissing, sneezing or coughing, living in close quarters with an infected person, or sharing eating or drinking utensils.
Most people exposed to the bacteria do not become infected but may become carriers and spread the bacteria to others.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms take an average of 4 days to appear. In some cases symptoms may appear between 2 and 10 days after infection.
Include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness.
Other symptoms include sensitivity to light (photophobia), confusion and a purplish skin rash.
Complications can include deafness, brain damage, seizures and may lead to death.
Can Meningococcal be treated?
The infection can be treated with antibiotics.
The disease is fatal in 5-10% of cases even when diagnosed early.
Where is Meningococcal a concern?
Meningococcal disease occurs worldwide.
In temperate zones (regions that have four seasons), most epidemics occur during the winter months.
In tropical areas, most epidemics occur during the dry season. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the meningitis belt extends from Senegal to Ethiopia, most outbreaks occur from December to June.
Source: © All Rights Reserved. Travel Health: Meningococcal. Public Health Agency of Canada, 2014. Reproduced with permission from the Minister of Health, 2014