Meningococcal disease can be hard to diagnose but can progress rapidly. It’s a rare but potentially devastating infection that can cause serious disability or death within 24 hours. Most children survive meningococcal disease, but if not diagnosed or treated quickly, it can be fatal.
The home doctor experts at House Call Doctor have all the information you need to know.
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is contagious and can be transmitted through close and prolonged contact with mucus from an infected person. It is caused by bacterial infection of the blood and/or membranes that line the spinal cord and brain. Babies and young children are most at risk of contracting this disease.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms of meningococcal disease are often mistaken for the common cold, making the condition difficult to diagnose. The common symptoms include:
- High fever
- Difficulty waking/extreme tiredness
- Refusal to eat
- Pale, grey or blotchy skin
- Cold hands and feed
- Sensitivity to light.
How to prevent contracting meningococcal disease?
This disease can be prevented with a vaccination that is included in the National Immunisation Program in Australia. The immunisation is recommended for:
- Babies and young children under 2 years old
- Teenagers and young adults aged 15-19 years old
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 2 months to 19 years old
- Teenagers and adults who are current smokers aged between 15 to 24 years
- People who are travelling to places overseas where meningococcal disease is more common
- People who have medical conditions that increase their risk of contracting the disease.
Diagnosis and treatment
Early diagnosis of meningococcal disease is extremely important so if you think you or one of your family members has the disease, seek medical help immediately. Your doctor can ask you about symptoms and also take a blood, spinal or joint fluid sample for testing.
This disease is usually treated with antibiotics in hospital, but in severe cases treatment in intensive care may be needed.