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Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis.  It causes two very serious illnesses:

  • Meningitis (inflammation of the brain membranes), and
  • Septicaemia (blood poisoning).
Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics – but early treatment is very important.

Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet (PDF, 66.28 KB).

Signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease – what you can see and feel

Meningococcal disease can look like influenza (the flu) in its early stages, but it quickly gets much worse.  The symptoms and signs may not all show up at once, and the illness may develop gradually over one or two days, or much more quickly over a few hours. 

People with meningococcal disease may have some or all of the following:

Babies and Children  

  • Fever
  • Crying, unsettled, irritable
  • Refusing drinks or feeds
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepy, floppy, harder to wake,
  • Stiff neck, dislike of bright lights
  • Reluctant to walk
  • Rash - purple or red spots or bruises        
                 

Adults

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepy, confused, delirious, unconscious    
  • Joint pains, aching muscles
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Rash - purple or red spots or bruises
                         

Meningococcal disease is life threatening – don’t wait – take action!

If you or someone in your household is sick with one or more of the symptoms listed above:

  • Ring a doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116) straight away – whatever the time, day or night.
  • Say what the symptoms are.
  • Insist on immediate action – don’t be put off – a life may be at risk.
  • Even if a person with these symptoms has been checked by a doctor, watch them carefully.
  • Do not leave them alone – they may get worse suddenly and need help urgently.
  • If they get worse, go straight back to a doctor or ring Healthline again.

Follow up of contacts of meningococcal disease in the Auckland region:

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) nurses are trained and experienced in meningococcal disease contact tracing and follow up.   Contact tracing and follow up usually starts on the same day that the meningococcal disease notification is received, and is available seven days per week during daylight hours.  Meningoccocal Rash. Don't wait. Get immediate medical help.

Close contacts of meningococcal disease cases are offered antibiotics to reduce the spread of the disease, along with written information about the medicine used (including dosage, side effects and interactions with other medicines the person may be taking).  The Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet lists those who are considered close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease.  

If you are in the greater Auckland region, and you believe you have had close contact with someone who has had recent meningococcal disease but you have not been offered antibiotics, you should call Auckland Regional Public Health Service on 09 623 4600.

Useful information

Useful links

  • Ministry of Health - Meningococcal
  • Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC)
  • Kidshealth
  • Plunket
  • Downloads

  • ARPHS  Meningococcal Fact Sheet (PDF, 66.28 KB)
  • Meningitis is serious (PDF, 211.04 KB) - Ministry of Health formation poster
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    Phone 09 623 4600 Fax 09 630 7431
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