Meningococcal disease

6 September 2012

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterial germ Neisseria meningitidis. It can cause meningitis (infection of the membrane around the brain) or septicaemia (blood poisoning) and rarely, infection in other sties in the body. It is a serious disease and can sometimes cause death or permanent disability, such as deafness, loss of limbs and epilepsy. There are different groups of meningococcal bacteria, with group B being the most common in New Zealand (and about a quarter of the cases caused by group C).

Prompt treatment with antibiotics can prevent death or permanent disability.

Since 1 September 2011, eight cases of meningococcal disease have been reported in the Taranaki region with five of these being confirmed. The age of cases ranged from 12 months to 26 years. None of these cases have died.

Dr Greg Simmons, Medical officer of Health for Taranaki recommends high level of vigilance for symptoms of the illness.

“It is important to remember that the early stages of meningococcal disease may appear as a flu-like illness. Meningococcal disease can progress very quickly. If an individual is sick, check them often. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention without delay if you are concerned. If their condition worsens take them back to the doctor," said Dr Simmons.

Symptoms and signs of the disease vary, but in children and adults can include high temperature, headache, neck stiffness, muscle and joint pain, skin rash, vomiting, drowsiness and convulsions. Symptoms in babies can be more subtle and in addition to the above, may present as floppiness, refusing feeds, pale skin and high-pitched crying.

Young children, teenagers and young adults are most at risk of developing meningococcal disease.

Anyone concerned that an illness may be meningococcal disease can obtain advice from Healthline (0800 611 116). More information on meningococcal disease can be found at:

Ministry of Health

Immunisation Advisory Centre

For more information please call
Sue Carrington
Media Adviser
Ph 021 367 789

Last updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012

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