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Do you know the symptoms of meningococcal disease?

22 Jul 2019


People are urged to be alert to the symptoms of meningococcal disease as we head into late winter and spring.

Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterial infection that can lead to serious illness or death, if not recognised and treated in time. While anyone can contract meningococcal disease, infection rates are higher in children aged 0 – 4 years and in people aged 15 – 24 years.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease include:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Headache
  • Neck stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Rash of red-purple spots or bruises that doesn’t disappear when pressure is applied. (A rash does not always appear or it may occur late in the disease).

Some or all of these symptoms may appear and can mimic other common illnesses. Symptoms usually occur suddenly and can get worse quickly, so it’s important to seek urgent medical treatment.

If you have already seen a doctor but symptoms continue to worsen, consult your doctor again or go to the Emergency Department.

Rapid treatment with antibiotics can save your life and reduce the risk of severe complications, such as loss of limbs.

Vaccination for meningococcal disease types A, C, W and Y, is available on the National Immunisation Program for children at 12 months of age and teenagers in Year 10. Teenagers aged 14 to 19 years who miss the vaccine in school are eligible for a free vaccine from their GP. Vaccination for types A, C, W and Y for other age groups is available privately. Vaccination for meningococcal disease type B is also available privately.

For more information about meningococcal disease, visit or speak to your GP.