What is Meningococcal Disease?

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What is Meningococcal Disease? Blog Image


The US state of Virginia is warning of a statewide outbreak of meningococcal disease.

About Meningococcal Disease

  • It is a rare but serious bacterial infection.
  • It causes the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed.
  • The two most common types of meningococcal infections are meningitis and septicemia. Both of these types of infections are very serious and can be deadly in a matter of hours.
  • Causes:
    • It is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitides.
    • About 1 in 10 people have these bacteria in the back of their nose and throat without being ill. This is called being ‘a carrier.’
    • Sometimes the bacteria invade the body and cause certain illnesses, which are known as meningococcal disease.
  • Transmission:
    • People spread meningococcal bacteria to other people by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit).
    • Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria. 
    • They are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or the flu.
  • Symptoms: The most common symptoms include
    • Fever.
    • Headache.
    • Stiff neck. This symptom is one that’s often associated with meningococcal disease and meningitis.
    • Bothered by bright light, which is called photophobia.
    • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
    • A rash made up of pinpoints that look dark, in shades of red and purple, or a bigger area that looks like a bruise.
  • Treatment: It is treated with antibiotics. Other treatments may be needed, including:
    • Help with breathing, such as oxygen therapy.
    • Drugs to treat low blood pressure.
    • Ways to treat damaged or dead skin, including surgeries.


What is the difference between meningococcal disease and meningitis?

  • Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called meninges.
  • Meningitis can happen in meningococcal disease, but not all cases of meningitis are caused by the germ that causes meningococcal disease.


Q1) What is the spinal cord?

The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular structure that is a crucial part of the central nervous system (CNS) in vertebrate animals, including humans. It extends from the base of the brain down through the vertebral column or spinal column (the bones of the spine) and serves as a vital pathway for transmitting signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The primary functions of the spinal cord include relaying sensory information from the body to the brain and carrying motor signals from the brain to control voluntary and involuntary movements.

Source: Virginia declares statewide outbreak of meningococcal disease: 'Rare but serious'