Help protect against meningococcal disease

Even if your child has been immunised, they may be missing protection against meningococcal disease.1 Meningococcal is a rare but potentially deadly and devastating disease, with infants and teens most at risk.2,3

Talk to your doctor or nurse to find out more – it could help protect your family.

What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease (commonly known as meningitis) is an infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis.4 These bacteria can cause an infection of the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord as well as a serious infection of the bloodstream, known as septicemia.3,4

How is it spread?
Meningococcal bacteria can be spread through close contact with an infected person, such as through droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze.4 The bacteria can be carried in the nose and throat of an infected person who shows no symptoms but can spread the disease to others. 3,4

Who is at risk?
Meningococcal disease can affect anyone of any age, but mainly affects infants, preschool children, and young people.4

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of meningococcal disease can first appear as a flu—like illness and rapidly worsen.3,7 The most common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches, and vomiting.7 In infants, these symptoms can be difficult to notice or may not be there at all.7 Instead, an infant may appear slow or inactive, be irritable, vomit, or feed poorly.7 A more severe form of meningococcal disease is septicemia, which is characterised by a dark purple rash and rapid bloodstream and organ damage.4,7

Early recognition and treatment of meningococcal disease offers the best chance of recovery.5,9 If you’re concerned, seek advice from a healthcare professional immediately.

How can you help protect your child?
Maintaining healthy habits, such as getting plenty of rest and practicing good hygiene may help to reduce the risk of infection.8,9

Vaccination is an effective way to help protect against meningococcal disease.3,8

There are different types of meningococcal bacteria, of which there are five types that most commonly cause disease (A,B,C,W and Y).3 There are different types of vaccines for different types of meningococcal disease. There is no one vaccine which covers all the different types of meningococcal disease.3

The routine childhood immunisation schedule in NZ does not currently include any vaccines to help protect against meningococcal disease.1

Talk to your doctor or nurse for more information about meningococcal disease.


  1.  Ministry of Health. Immunisation Handbook 2017 (2nd Edition, March 2018). Available at Accessed 23 October 2019
  2. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Annual Epidemiological Report 2016 – Invasive meningococcal disease. Available at Accessed 4 November 2019
  3. Immunisation Advisory Centre. Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet. Available at Accessed 23 September 2019
  4.  World Health Organization (WHO). Meningococcal meningitis factsheet. Available at . Accessed 23 October 2019
  5. Thompson MJ, et al. Lancet 2006; 367(9508): 397–403
  6.  Rosenstein NE, et al. N Engl J Med 2001; 344(18): 1378–88.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meningococcal Disease Signs and Symptoms. Available at Accessed 23 October 2019
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meningococcal Prevention. Available at Accessed 29 October 2019
  9. Ministry of Health website, Meningococcal disease (including meningitis) website. Available at Accessed 4 November 2019

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