Student Health Service

Meningococcal Disease & Meningitis

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Meningococcal disease is a serious infection caused by bacteria. It can cause meningitis (inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord) or septicaemia (a severe infection of the bloodstream).

The symptoms can develop very quickly and can lead to death in under 12 hours. It is important to get medical attention as soon as possible. Meningococcal disease can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics, and it is important that treatment be started as soon as possible.Check the person regularly and don't leave them alone.

IF YOU SUSPECT MENINGITIS YOU MUST SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION or RING HEALTHLINE 0800 611 116 for 24/7 ADVICE FROM A REGISTERED NURSE

Symptoms and warning signs of meningitis in an adult

Symptoms of meningitis in an older child or adult 

  • have a fever and headache
  • vomit
  • be sleepy, confused, delirious or unconscious
  • have a stiff neck and dislike bright lights
  • have joint pain and aching muscles
  • have a rash or spots like this

      Rash typical of meningococcal infection

YOU MUST SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE  IMMEDIATELY OR CALL 111

Q. If people are now being vaccinated against meningitis and septicaemia, why is it important to know the symptoms of these diseases ?

A. As yet, no single vaccine can prevent all forms of the meningitis and septicaemia. Currently in NZ there are vaccines available against strains A,C,Y and W135. There is no currently available vaccine that can protect against group B meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia which is the most common type of the disease - so knowing the signs and symptoms is vital to ensure early treatment and improved response.

Which meningococcal vaccine is best for me?

A. Meningococcal conjugate vaccines [MCV4] should usually be considered first for use over the older, less immunogenic polysaccharide vaccines; however this does need to be balanced against the fact that they are currently significantly more expensive.

The advantages of conjugate vaccines over polysaccharide vaccines include an ability to induce immunological memory against groups A,C,Y and W135 which can be boosted in the future, overall better efficacy, longer term protection, and the reduction of nasopharangeal carriage, with an associated reduction in the spread of infection among close contacts and the community (herd immunity).

Polysaccharide vaccines [MPSV4] have been available for many years, which offer short-term protection against groups A, C, Y and W135. These vaccines produce poor immune responses in young children, and do not produce protection for more than a few years. They produce a measurable immune response in ~ 90 % of people. They are very useful as travel immunisations in certain circumstances.

Comparison by Vaccine Type

Polysacchride [MPSV4]

Conjugate [MCV4]

Strains protected against

A,C,Y,W135

A,C,Y,W135

Immune response/effectiveness

Do not produce memory T cells, or mucosal immunity or herd immunity

Produce memory T cells, mucosal immunity and herd immunity

Duration of protection

Few years (1 – 4 estimated)

Longer lasting

SHS Cost (NZ$ 2013)

$52

$118

 

Common side effects

Uncommon side effects

Rare/very rare side effects

Soreness/pain and/or redness around the injection site.

Fever over 38°C.

Headache.

Malaise.

Fatigue.

Anaphylaxis.

Angioedema.

Urticaria.

Severe local reactions.