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Meningococcal disease

meningococcal; disease; infection; meningococci; meningococcus; neisseria; meningitidis; meningitis; septicaemia; blood; poisoning; illness; rash; spots; red; purple; bruise; fever; headache; immunisation; immunise; immunize; immunization; vaccine; vaccination ;

Meningococcal disease is a severe illness caused by bacteria (germs) called Neisseria meningitidis (sometimes also called meningococci). It can affect all age groups, but is most common in young children under 5 years old, and young people 15 to 24 years old.


Meningococcal bacteria  can be found in the nose and throat of up to 10% of the population, where they are almost always harmless. They are called 'carriers'

In a very small number of people, for reasons that are not clear, the germs spread into the blood stream and cause very serious illnesses.

In South Australia so far (beginning of December) in 2014 there have been 28 people who have become ill from meningococcal infections.


  • If a person has any of the signs of meningococcal infection, such as rapidly becoming very ill and having a rash of reddish purple spots or bruises, medical treatment is needed urgently. 
  • A person may have meningococcal B disease even if he or she has been immunised against meningococcal C disease.

It is recommended that all Australian children are given meningococcal C vaccine when they are aged 12 months.

For more information about meningococcal disease

South Australian Department of Health
'Meningococcal Infection'

Further reading

Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition, 2013

South Australian Department of Health

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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