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Meningococcal disease

meningococcal; disease; infection; Neisseria; meningitidis; meningitis; septicaemia; blood; poisoning; immunise; immunisation; vaccine; carrier; meningococcus; meningococci;

Contents

Meningococcal disease has received a lot of coverage in the Australian media. This is because it is a very serious illness, which can affect healthy children, young people and adults - some die within a few hours of becoming unwell, even when they get fast treatment.

Meningococcal disease is actually quite rare, but the germs that cause it (called Neisseria meningitidis or sometimes meningococci) can be found in the nose and throat of up to 10% of the population, where they are almost always harmless (these people 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.

Meningococcal disease can affect all age groups, but it is most common in young people 15 to 24 years old, and young children under 5 years old. In South Australia in 2011 there were 21 people who became ill from meningococcal infections. Fewer people have become ill since the start of the meningococcal immunisation program.

More information about meningococcal disease

South Australian Department of Health, 'Meningococcal infection'
http://www.dh.sa.gov.au/pehs/ygw/meningococol-pehs-sahealth-2009.pdf

Further reading

Australian Immunisation Handbook 9th Edition, 2008

South Australian Department of Health - Notifiable diseases summary
http://www.dh.sa.gov.au/pehs/notifiable-diseases-summary/

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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 Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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