If you are concerned that you or someone you know has meningococcal disease, see a doctor, call 000 or go to your nearest Emergency Department immediately.

Meningococcal disease is a serious, often fatal illness

  • Up to 10% of people with meningococcal disease die, even with rapid treatment.
  • It can affect anyone, but is more common in children under 5, and people aged 15-24.
  • Symptoms usually present suddenly and can get worse very quickly.
  • The characteristic rash does not always appear, or may appear late. Don't wait for a rash. See symptoms? Act fast. 
  • Vaccination​ is the best way to prevent the spread.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease has many symptoms, some of which can be similar to viral illnesses like the flu or COVID-19. Symptoms can vary but may include:

  • sudden fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • headache
  • neck stiffness
  • joint pain
  • dislike of bright lights
  • irritability
  • a red-purple rash that doesn’t disappear when pressure is applied (a rash does not always appear or it may occur late in the disease)

In young children, symptoms may also include:

  • irritability
  • difficulty waking up
  • high-pitched crying
  • rapid or laboured breathing
  • refusal to eat

Who is at risk of meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease can affect anyone, but it is more common among children under 5 years old, and adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 years old.

People at slightly greater risk of meningococcal disease include:

Act fast if you suspect meningococcal disease

  • Up to 10% of people with meningococcal disease die, even with rapid treatment.
  • Up to 40% may end up with significant long term effects, including limb or digit amputation or skin scarring.

People infected with meningococcal disease can become extremely unwell, very quickly, often within hours of the first symptoms appearing.

Patients with meningococcal disease need urgent treatment with antibiotics, in hospital. Treatment will usually begin before the diagnosis is confirmed by tests.

If you think you or someone you know could have meningococcal disease, seek urgent medical advice. If you’ve already seen a doctor but symptoms continue to worsen, consult your doctor again or go to the Emergency Department.​​​

Current as at: Friday 13 August 2021
Contact page owner: Communicable Diseases