This Meningococcal Awareness Week, Meningococcal Australia is urging all parents to be aware and SHARE the facts with family and friends to debunk the misconceptions around meningococcal disease.
Unfortunately we still see between 200 and 250 cases of meningococcal disease every year, and the great majority of these are caused by meningococcal B.
Sadly, it is in children under five years where the incidence of meningococcal disease is highest. Of those who contract the disease, five per cent will lose their lives, and around 20 per cent will have permanent disabilities.
After sharing the stories of Danielle, Kendall and Grant, today we’re bringing you a list of the most common questions asked about this devastating disease. Share them with your friends and family. Because knowledge is power.
1. What is meningococcal disease and how is it spread to people so young?
Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection. In Australia there are 5 main strains of the disease – A, B, C, Y and W (previously known as W135).
Meningococcal disease is hard to identify because it can appear in several different forms, depending on which part of the body the bacteria invade. There can be meningitis or septicaemia, or a combination of both. Meningitis is inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord and Septicaemia is blood poisoning, which is the more dangerous and deadly of the two forms.
Meningococcal disease can affect people of all ages, from babies to the elderly and everyone in between. However babies and children can be at a higher risk due to their less mature immune system and a tendency to put things in their mouth. Teenagers and young adults from 15 to 25 years old can also be considered higher risk due to their socially interactive lifestyles that is more likely to involve intimate activities such as kissing and sharing drinks. Winter and early spring are also higher risk times of the year as there are many viruses around which can weaken the body’s natural immune system. It is possible to catch a virus first, followed a few days later by a meningococcal infection, which makes early identification very hard.
2. What’s the difference between meningococcal disease and meningitis?
Meningitis is inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. There are many different forms of meningitis including fungal, viral and bacterial. Bacterial meningitis is the most serious form of the disease. Most cases of bacterial meningitis are caused by three species of bacteria: Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus).
Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours and may appear as meningitis (bacterial form as described above) or septicaemia (blood poisoning).
Meningococcal septicemia is the more deadly type of disease. Bacteria enter the blood stream and multiply uncontrollably, damaging the walls of the blood vessels and causing bleeding into the skin (the rash).