Meningococcal Disease Facts

Meningococcal disease can include a variety of serious clinical illnesses, including meningitis (infection of the lining of the spinal cord), bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), and rarely, pneumonia (infection of the lungs). Children and young adults are most often affected by this disease. Meningococcal disease is a medical emergency which requires prompt treatment.

Neisseria meningitidis

Meningitis - fever, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, extreme sleepiness, confusion and irritability, lack of appetite; sometimes a rash or seizures.

It takes approximately 1 - 10 days from the time a person is exposed to the bacteria until symptoms appear.

Through secretions of the nose and throat (e.g., coughing, sneezing); more common in household, child care settings. Of the people who carry the bacteria in the nose and throat, only a very few will develop disease. However, people who carry the bacteria can sometimes carry it to others who will in turn become sick.

Contagious period:
Until 24 hours after effective treatment begins.

Household, Child Care Center, and Nursery School Contacts.
Prophylaxis (preventive antibiotics) should be given to close contacts as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours. Prophylaxis is also warranted for persons who have had contact with the patient's oral secretions through kissing or sharing of food or beverages. Prophylaxis is not recommended routinely for medical personnel except those who have had intimate exposure (such as occurs with mouth-to mouth resuscitation).

There are a number of antibiotics that may be used for prophylaxis. One commonly used antibiotic is called rifampin. Other antibiotics sometimes used are ciprofloxacin or ceftriaxone.

Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics.

For further information, please contact your physician or call the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414.


Updated Tuesday, July 01, 2014 at 01:15PM