Risks at a glance:
- Meningitis – inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. This can cause permanent disabilities – such as deafness or brain injury.
- Septicaemia – blood poisoning that can cause death within hours. People who survive may need to have fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms, or legs amputated due to the lack of blood circulation to them. They can also be left with permanent disabilities including severe scarring due to skin grafts.
- Pneumonia (lung infection)
- Rare forms of the disease include septic arthritis – joint infection
- Conjunctivitis – infection of the outer lining of the eye and eyelid
- Death – five to ten per cent of patients with meningococcal disease die, even despite rapid treatment.
About the disease:
- Meningococcal disease is caused by infection with Neisseria meningitidis. There are five different types that cause the disease, these are types A, B, C, W and Y.
- Symptoms can include sudden fever, headache, neck stiffness, being sensitive to light, pain in joints, a rash of red-purple spots or bruises, feeling sick and vomiting.
- People with meningococcal disease can become extremely unwell very quickly and those with symptoms need urgent medical attention
- Between 5 and 25 per cent of people carry meningococcal bacteria at the back of the nose and throat without showing any illness or symptoms.
- Meningococcal disease happens more often in winter and spring, but it can happen any time of year
How is it spread:
Meningococcal bacteria are passed between people in the secretions from the back of the nose and throat, this can happen through close contact like kissing or living in the same household.
Antibiotics will be prescribed to try to prevent death and complications, but meningococcal is such a fast and furious disease that antibiotics might have limited impact. Other treatments might include breathing support, medications to treat low blood pressure, wound care for parts of the body with damaged skin, and amputation of badly affected limbs.
Impact of Meningococcal Disease
The World Health Organization estimate there are 1.2 million cases and 135,000 deaths worldwide caused by meningococcal diseases each year.
There are vaccines available for Meningococcal A, C, W, Y and B.
Real life stories: