Meningococcal Disease

Should I get vaccinated?

Meningococcal disease, which is linked to meningitis is uncommon, but very serious. It affects people of all ages and can result in severe complications and death.

Vaccination is available against several types (known as serogroups) of meningococcal. It is strongly recommended for all people, especially infants, adolescents, young adults and those with socially interactive lifestyles.

How do I get vaccinated?

There are 13 different meningococcal types, or serogroups. The most common are A, B, C, W and Y. There are two different vaccines, one for serogroups ACWY, and one for serogroup B.

Under the National Immunisation Program, the meningococcal ACWY vaccination is free for babies aged 12 months (or infants between 1-5 years old if they missed their vaccination at 12 months). In Western Australia, high school students aged 15-19 can also receive the meningococcal ACWY vaccine for free.

The meningococcal vaccine is not normally recommended for pregnant women, unless advised by your doctor. Appointments with the Nurse Practioner are quick and will work out which shot is right for you. At Craven’s Pharmacy the meningococcal ACWY vaccine for people not covered by the National Immunisation Program is $69.70. The meningococcal B vaccine costs $127.20.

Fill out the contact form attached or book an appointment online today to protect yourself and your family.

Meningococcal facts

Meningococcal disease is a very serious and potentially life-threatening illness. It is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, commonly called meningococcus. There were 379 confirmed cases in Australia in 2017.

Meningococcal disease and meningitis are not the same thing. However, meningococcal disease can lead to meningitis (an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Meningococcus can also infect other areas of the body, including the lungs, eyes and joints.

Meningitis can be caused by:

  • bacteria – uncommon, but very dangerous with a high risk of serious complications and death
  • virus – common but relatively mild
  • parasite
  • non-infectious causes, such as a head injury or lupus.

There are three main types of bacterial meningitis, Hib meningitis (caused by Haemophilus influenzae), meningococcal meningitis (caused by Neisseria meningitidis) and pneumococcal meningitis (caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae).

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others around you.

Symptoms

Meningococcal disease is very serious. Anyone who shows symptoms of the disease should go to the nearest hospital immediately. Meningococcal disease is likely to exhibit as meningitis and septicaemia.

Meningitis:

  • stiff neck
  • headache
  • photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • confusion
  • poor feeding, drinking and low levels of alertness in babies.

Septicaemia:

  • fever
  • chills
  • cold hands and feet
  • fatigue
  • severe aches and pains
  • rapid breathing
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • dark purple rash (in the later stages).

The disease can cause serious complications and even death. Some of the complications include:

  • deformity or loss of limb
  • brain damage
  • deafness
  • severe scarring.

High-risk groups

Meningococcal can affect people of all ages. However, certain people are at a higher risk than others. These groups include:

  • babies and children under 5 years old
  • people with a socially interactive lifestyle, such as many 15-24-year-olds
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people who smoke
  • laboratory workers who handle meningococcus
  • people who are travelling to a high-risk area, this includes parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Saudi Arabia requires all Hajj and Umrah pilgrims to be vaccinated.

People with certain medical conditions are also at a higher risk from meningococcal disease. This includes people who have:

  • HIV
  • a defect or deficiency of complement components, including factor H, factor D and properdin
  • haematopoietic stem cell transplant
  • Eculizumab (Soliris) treatment
  • asplenia (removed or non-functioning spleen), e.g. sickle cell disease
  • recurring viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.

Infection and transmission

Meningococcus cannot survive outside the body for more than a few seconds. The bacteria occur naturally, without causing any illness, in the back of the nose and throat in about 10% of the population. Occasionally, the bacteria can travel through the lining of the throat and enter the blood stream. This is when meningococcal disease occurs, and the infection develops very quickly.

The disease is transmitted person-to-person through body fluids such as spit and saliva. This might happen through kissing or being in close contact with lots of people, for example by living in shared housing.

Side effects

Side effects to the meningococcal vaccination are rare. However, speak to your pharmacist before getting vaccinated if you have experienced anaphylaxis after a previous vaccination, or if you have any another medical concerns. The meningococcal vaccine is not normally recommended for pregnant women, unless advised by a doctor. Your pharmacist will be able to tell you if vaccination is right for you.

You may experience some swelling, pain or redness at the injection site. It can be eased by applying an ice pack or using a pain relief such as paracetamol. Other possible side effects may include general discomfort and tiredness, muscle or joint pain, a headache and a mild fever.

If you feel very unwell, faint, short of breath or if your symptoms do not go away, you should contact your doctor.

Preventing meningococcal disease

Vaccination is the best way to avoid meningococcal disease. Even if you have been previously infected you should get vaccinated, because immunity from infection decreases over time.

Treating meningococcal disease

Early diagnosis and treatment with the correct antibiotic are vital for people to have the best chance of making a full recovery. Unfortunately, even with treatment about 5-10% of meningococcal infections result in death and about 30% of cases in children and adolescents result in permanent disability. This includes limb deformity or loss, brain damage, deafness and scarring. Anyone who shows signs of meningococcal infection should seek urgent treatment at the nearest hospital.