Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection caused
by the bacterium, Neisseria meningitidis.
This is one
of many organisms that infects the blood and the
meninges (the tissues covering the brain and spinal
Blood infections caused by this bacterium
without meningitis are called meningococcemia.
Cases occur more often during the winter and
Meningococcal disease is relatively rare.
Who gets meningococcal disease?
Anyone can get meningococcal disease. However, it
is more common in infants, children and young
adults. MeningococcaI disease occurs more often in
places where there are crowded living conditions.
How does the disease spread?
Meningococcal disease spreads by contact with
mucus or droplets from the nose and throat of an
Many people carry the bacteria in
their nose and throat without signs of illness;
however, they may spread the disease to others.
What are the symptoms?
symptoms of meningococcal disease should see a doctor immediately. Meningococcal disease can be
deadly if not treated quickly.
The symptoms of meningitis appear suddenly, and
Frequently a rash appears
behavior such as confusion, and sleepiness, may
In infants, the only signs of meningitis may be:
meningitis usually run a fever, but this is not a
Meningococcemia, the blood infection, usually involves a fever and a rash.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Symptoms may appear 2 to 10 days after infection,
but usually within 3 to 4 days.
How long is an infected person able to spread
A person can spread the disease as long as the
bacteria are present in the nose or throat. After
treatment, the bacteria usually disappear within 24 hours.
Can a person get this disease again?
Probably not, though there are several types of N.
meningitidis and infection with one type doesn’t
provide immunity to other types.
What is the treatment for meningococcal
Antibiotics are used to treat meningococcal disease.
Should people who have been around a person
infected with meningococcal disease be
Household members, daycare center playmates, and
close friends of infected persons, or anyone who has
saliva contact through kissing, sharing eating
utensils, or drinking from the same glass, need to
ask their doctor about preventive treatment with
People who have had casual contact such
as occurs in a classroom, office, or factory setting
usually do not need preventive treatment.
Is there a vaccine to prevent meningococcal
Presently, there is a vaccine that protects against two
types of meningococcus. The vaccine is available
through the Immunizations Unit at the Southern Nevada Health District (702) 759-0850.
What can be done to stop the spread of
People with colds or influenza-like symptoms
should be careful to cover their mouths and noses
with tissue when sneezing or coughing.
outbreaks in schools, daycare centers, or in places
such as barracks where there are crowded living
conditions, pregnant women or people with chronic
red blood cell disorders should ask their doctor for
advice regarding preventive treatment.
Where can I get more information?
Contact your physician or the Southern Nevada Health District, Office of Epidemiology at (702) 759-1300.