Meningitis is an acute infection of the central nervous system caused by several strains of a bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis.
The disease has a sudden onset with symptoms of fever, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. On occasion, red spots may appear on the skin. Meningogoccal meningitis is a medical emergency. If you have these symptoms, you should consult a physician immediately. In addition, 10 to 20% of those who survive have lifelong consequences, including hearing loss, various neurological effects and amputation of fingers or limbs.
In most cases, the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis causes a respiratory tract infection that will not develop into a meningitis.
Transmission is by direct contact, which includes saliva droplets and discharges from the nose and throat of an infected person. Some individuals do not develop the disease at this point but become carriers and propagators of the bacteria. Following contact with the bacteria, the incubation period is 2 to 10 days (3 to 4 days on average) before symptoms appear. The disease confers temporary immunity against the infecting strain.
In close contacts of individuals with meningococcal infections, prevention antibiotic treatments is recommended.
The meningococcal C vaccine is part of the routine immunization schedule for infants and children across Canada. Additionally, there are vaccines against several other meningococcal strains which are used during outbreaks caused by a strain found in the vaccine.
For more information:
The Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness & Promotion