Alberta Health Services
Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria. It can lead to a serious infection of the fluid and lining that cover the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or blood.
You are most at risk of infection if you:
Meningococcal disease spreads through saliva (spit) through kissing or sharing food, toys, or water bottles with someone who has the disease.
Some people don’t have symptoms, but they can still spread the disease.
At first, symptoms of meningococcal disease can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and feeling generally unwell. These symptoms progress quickly to a bad headache, stiff neck, or a tiny, reddish-purple, bruise-like rash.
If you or your child has these symptoms, go to a doctor right away.
A doctor can diagnose meningococcal disease using special tests. The most important test is called a lumbar puncture. Other tests, such as blood tests, a CT scan, or an MRI, may be used as well.
Antibiotics (medicines that fight bateria) can treat bacterial meningitis, but this treatment must start very quickly. If left untreated, bacterial meningitis can cause brain damage and death within a few hours.
There are vaccines that protect against different types of meningococcal disease.
Learn about Alberta’s routine immunization schedule and ask your healthcare provider what meningococcal vaccines you or your child should have.
To find out if you need a meningococcal vaccine for travel and when you need it:
Contact a private travel clinic, your doctor, or your pharmacist at least 6 weeks before your travel.
Contact your local public health or community health centre to find out if you need any routine immunizations.