Meningococcal victim Thorn Pochyly with teacher Jenny Snodgrass and Kylie Pochyly. Photo Bruce Thomas/ Coffs Coast Advocate
Meningococcal victim Thorn Pochyly with teacher Jenny Snodgrass and Kylie Pochyly. Photo Bruce Thomas/ Coffs Coast Advocate Bruce Thomas/ Coffs Coast Advoca

What you need to know about Meningococcal disease

MENINGOCOCCAL disease is a bacterial infection that can cause death within ours if not recognised and treated immediately.

The potentially fatal disease has returned to front pages after a Sunshine Coast woman was consumed by Meningococcal in just days last week.

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This guide has been drawn from the resources of Meningococcal Australia


  • It is most likely to affect infants and adolescents.
  • 10% of population carry "meningococcus" in their throat or nose, without showing symptoms.
  • There are two types -- Meningococcal septicaemia and Meningococcal meningitis.
  • The risk of death is 1 in 13, or 8% overall. It is up to 20% for those with septicaemia.
  • Since a vaccine was introduced in 2001, a specific form of meningococcal disease (type C) has fallen from 162 cases in 2002 to nine cases in 2011.
  • Local GPs are best to advise on vaccinations for meningococcal.



Meningococcal Septicaemia (blood poisoning) is a medical emergency.

  • Septicaemia happens when the bacteria enter the bloodstream, later causing bleeding into the skin, which causes a distinctive rash.

Meningitis is the inflaming of brain lining and spinal cord.

  • Forms include fungal, viral and bacterial - bacterial meningitis is the most serious.



Symptoms of Meningococcal septicaemia:

  • Shivering, chills, cold hands or feet, skin colour change
  • Sudden, severe pain in arms, legs, joints and stomach
  • Fever, thirst, nausea, vomiting, maybe diarrhoea
  • Drowsiness, loss of consciousness, rapid breathing
  • Spots or pinprick rash (develops to purple blotches)

Symptoms of Meningococcal meningitis

  • Severe headache
  • Stiff or painful neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness, loss of consciousness, convulsions
  • A rash may develop in the later stages



  • Get urgent medical advice from your doctor or hospital if you or someone you know is showing symptoms of Meningococcal.
  • Return to the doctor or seek a second opinion if symptoms progress
  • Patients with meningococcal disease need urgent treatment with intravenous antibiotics. 
  • If the rash appears, in conjunction with other symptoms such as a high fever, call an ambulance for urgent treatment.
  • In cases where meningococcal disease is suspected, it is recommended that antibiotic treatment be started before the diagnosis is confirmed by tests.