Meningococcal disease

Australia has 5 common strains of meningococcal disease they are: Men A, Men B, Men C, Men W-135 and Y. They are all preventable through vaccination.

Meningococcal B is the most common strain in Australia however Meningococcal W-135 follows a close second, is more aggressive and has a higher mortality rate than most of the other strains.

It’s believed 30% of the population carries the bacteria in the back of our nose and throat without being aware of it.

On rare occasions the bacteria can defeat the body’s immune system and cause infection. This might be due to the person feeling rundown, late nights, stress, or illness.

Most often the bacteria are spread through sneezing, coughing or being more intimate, like deep kissing.

When the bacteria travels through the bloodstream and affects the meninges (the lining between the skull and brain which is filled with cerebrospinal fluid) it becomes meningitis or a purple rash may develop causing septicaemia

Australia is very progressive with its vaccines and has the ACWY vaccination on its National Immunisation Program. Several states offer other types of vaccinations for meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal meningitis, caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, is of particular importance due to its potential to cause large epidemics. There are twelve strains, which have been identified, seven of which (A, B, C, E, W-135, X and Y) can cause epidemics.

The largest burden of meningococcal disease occurs in an area of sub-Saharan Africa known as the meningitis belt, which stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east (26 countries). During the dry season between December to June, dust winds, cold nights and upper respiratory tract infections combine to damage the nose and throat area, increasing the risk of meningococcal disease. At the same time, transmission of the bacteria can be accelerated due to overcrowding of housing. This combination of factors explains the large epidemics which occur during the dry season in the meningitis belt. Meningococcal strains A, C, W-135 and X are most common here.

Meningococcal Septicaemia

Meningococcal septicaemia is when the meningococcal bacteria multiplies in the blood and releases poison that damages the body.

The toxins stop the important flow of oxygen to the organs including the skin and the surrounding tissues causing purple spots which can develop into something that looks like a rash. This is also known as blood poisoning and URGENT medical attention is needed as the person is in a critical condition.

After Effects of Meningococcal Septicaemia

The damage that the toxins cause in the bloodstream and eventually to the organs and limbs can result in the following:

  • Skin and tissue damage
  • Skin grafts
  • Bone growth problems
  • Organ failure
  • Limb loss
  • Prosthetics for the patient

More information

If you would like more information on this you can download our brochures and pamphlets, find out more about vaccines, call us Monday-Friday on 1800 250 223 or email us at info@meningitis.org.au