Meningococcal Infection

What is meningococcal infection?

Meningococcal infection is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitides. There are 13 types of meningococcus. In Australia, there are 5 main strains of the disease, all of which now have vaccines available from your GP.

How common is it?

Meningococcal disease is not easily spread. Only a small number of people who come into close contact with carriers develop the disease.

How is it spread?

About 10% of the population carry meningococcus in the nose and throat. It is spread when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes small droplets containing infectious agents into the air, which are then breathed in by those nearby. It is also spread by close contact with nose or throat secretions. Meningococcal can infect all age groups but is most common in winter and spring and cigarette smokers are at increased risk of developing the infection.

What are the symptoms?

People usually develop symptoms 3 to 4 days after infection, however this can vary from 1 to 10 days. A person remains infectious as long as the meningococcal bacteria are present in the nose and throat.

Common Symptoms

  • Fever (which may not go down with medication)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lack of energy
  • Tiredness or drowsiness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability or agitation
  • A sore throat

Meningitis only

  • Backache
  • Stiff or painful neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Twitching or convulsions


Meningococcal infection can be deadly and must be treated immediately with an injection of antibiotics and transferred urgently to hospital.


Meningococcal C vaccination is part of the National Immunisation schedule, which is given to children at 12 months of age. Private vaccines are available for meningococcal B, A, C, W and Y strains. If you wish to be vaccinated, then you must book an appointment with your GP to discuss.

Article sourced from SA Health website and Meningococcal Australia. For more information visit or

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