Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection which can cause disability or death if not treated in time.

Symptoms are very general to begin with and may not be easily associated with meningococcal disease. Typical early symptoms are mild and may include a general feeling of illness, nausea/vomiting, tiredness, fever and/or disorientation.

If you have any of the symptoms listed below and/or suspect you have meningococcal please seek immediate medical attention.

About Meningococcal Disease

The disease can present in two ways. Meningococcal meningitis occurs when the bacteria invade the brain and spinal cord, which become inflamed. This form of meningococcal disease can cause lasting brain damage, hearing loss and, in extreme cases, death.

Far more dangerous is meningococcal septicaemia, which occurs when the meningococcal bacteria enter the bloodstream. As they multiply they damage blood vessels, causing severe bleeding into the skin. This form of meningococcal disease can result in the amputation of extremities or death within hours.

If you have any of the symptoms listed below and/or suspect you have meningococcal please seek immediate medical attention.

Meningococcal symptoms

Symptoms are very general to begin with and may not be easily associated with meningococcal disease. Typical early symptoms are mild and may include a general feeling of illness, nausea/vomiting, tiredness, fever and/or disorientation.

More severe symptoms that develop as the disease progresses include diarrhoea, convulsions, rapid breathing and a distinctive red/purple rash which does not fade when pressure is applied.

Symptoms progress very quickly so if you suspect you might have a bacterial infection it’s important to seek advice as soon as possible.

How is meningococcal disease spread?

It may surprise you to know that a meningococcal disease is quite widespread in most human populations around the world, however the actual incidence of disease is comparatively low.

Meningococcal disease is transmitted via saliva and mucous secretions from the nose and back of the throat where the bacteria live. Intimate kissing is a common way the disease is spread.

Because the disease is so widespread, it can also be transmitted by close living contact with an infected person, even if they do not exhibit any symptoms. It is most likely to occur throughout winter and early spring when viruses and cold weather naturally weaken people’s immune systems.

Whom is meningococcal disease most likely to affect?

Your TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist can help

Meningococcal ACWY vaccine is funded under the National Immunisation Program for babies aged 12 months. Since April 2019, it has been funded for year 10 students through a school program with a catch-up dose available through general practice for 15–19 year olds who missed it at school. Western Australia also has a Meningococcal ACWY state funded program.

TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacists can administer Meningococcal ACWY vaccination for anyone wanting to be vaccinated who is not eligible for the state funded program. *

At this stage, the vaccine for meningococcal strain B has not been included as part of this program. If you wish to be protected against this strain as well, you should go see your GP to be vaccinated.

Note: The above information applies to Western Australian pharmacies only. The meningococcal vaccine cannot be administered by pharmacists in other states/territories. Please speak to your GP for more information.

Meningococcal disease can affect people of any gender at any age, but most at risk of a bacterial attack are babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.

Infants and children are prone because of their still-developing immune systems and habit of putting things in their mouth.

The disease is also prevalent in teenagers and young adults because of their interactive lifestyles, where activities like kissing may facilitate its spread.

Protection against meningococcal disease

The best possible prevention against meningococcal disease is to get vaccinated.

Good basic hygiene practises like thorough hand washing and not sharing drinking cups can also slightly reduce the risk of transmission.

General advice only – this information should not replace the information provided to you by your health care professional. If symptoms are severe or persist, please speak to your health care professional. Information current as of date of publishing.

Always check with your pharmacist or medical professional before starting any new medications or supplements, particularly if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, are taking any medications currently, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or researching therapies suitable for infants or children.