The bacteria Neisseria Meningitides are spread from person to person through close contact type behaviors. These behaviors can include coughing or sneezing, sharing drinks or eating utensils, kissing, or living in close household contacts, college dorm rooms, military barracks, etc. While anyone can develop meningococcal disease, infants and adolescents are at increased risk. Infants are at increased risk because they have relatively undeveloped immune systems. Adolescents and young adults due to close contact type behaviors. Other risk factors include exposure to an outbreak, travel to certain countries, and certain medical conditions. Click here for more information about risk factors.
Symptoms normally develop within 3 to 7 days of exposure to a carrier. Symptoms of meningococcal disease can be mistaken for the flu, and they often progress rapidly. Symptoms may include fever, headache, neck and body aches, nausea and vomiting. As the disease progresses, symptoms may develop into confusion and rash. In infants, symptoms may be absent or hard to recognize.
Treatment of Meningococcal disease involves early antibiotics and supportive care such as breathing machines and medications to treat low blood pressure. However, even early treatment may not prevent disability or death. Close contacts of people diagnosed with meningococcal disease, such as people living in the same household or significant others, are often treated with antibiotics preventively so that they don’t develop the disease. It is important that treatment start as soon as possible.