The following is taken from the WA State Department of Health website. Please visit the Washington Department of Health website for complete information.
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a very serious illness caused by bacteria. It can lead to brain damage, disability, and death. It usually causes two types of infections: swelling of the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and blood infections (septicemia).
What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?
Meningitis (most common form): sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion.
Meningococcal septicemia (bloodstream infection): fever, fatigue, vomiting, severe aches or pain, rapid breathing, diarrhea, cold chills, and in the later stages, a dark purple rash on the legs and arms.
Symptoms usually appear anywhere from 3 to 4 days after exposure. Some people are carriers of meningococcal bacteria, but they have no symptoms of disease.
Is meningococcal disease contagious?
Yes. It is spread to other people by respiratory droplets, saliva or spit, or direct contact, such as coughing, kissing, or sharing anything by mouth with an infected person, like straws, silverware, lip balm, or toothbrushes.
What makes meningococcal disease a serious illness?
Even with antibiotic treatment, 10 to 15 in 100 people infected with meningococcal disease will die. About 11 to 19 in 100 survivors will have long-term disabilities, such as loss of limb(s), deafness, nervous system problems, or brain damage.
Who is at risk for meningococcal disease?
Rates of disease are highest in children younger than 1 year of age, followed by a second peak in adolescence (ages 16-23). Adults age 65 years and older have higher rates of disease as well.
What is the best way to prevent meningococcal disease?
Get vaccinated. Two types of vaccines can protect against several kinds of meningococcal disease: meningococcal conjugate vaccine, meningococcal B vaccine.
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine is a routine recommendation for all children aged 11 to 12 years, with a booster shot for teens at 16 years of age.
What should I do if I have been exposed to someone with meningococcal disease or get sick with meningococcal disease?
If you are exposed to someone with meningococcal disease or get sick with it, go to the emergency room for treatment as soon as possible. Then call your healthcare provider or local health department.