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Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease: Introduction

Meningococcal disease, also called meningococcal meningitis, is a serious infectious disease that can be life-threatening and result in permanent complications and coma, shock, and death.

Meningococcal disease appears periodically in every country the world. It has developed into scattered epidemics in Africa and pandemics in Asia. It also can cause outbreaks in places of crowded living conditions, such as college dormitories or on military bases.

Meningococcal disease is caused by a variety of types of the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The N. meningitidis bacteria are carried by humans in the nose and throat and are spread into the air by coughing and/or sneezing. The bacteria are highly contagious, and once they are airborne, they can be picked up by anyone who breathes them into their respiratory tract.

The N. meningitidis bacteria spread from the respiratory tract to the blood stream and to the nervous system. An infection of N. meningitidis is one cause of meningitis. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that encases and bathes the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis caused by meningococcal disease include a high fever and stiff neck, and serious complications can occur. Death can happen in a matter of days. For more information on symptoms, refer to symptoms of meningococcal disease.

Making a diagnosis of meningococcal disease begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. Diagnostic tests include a lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, which involves withdrawing a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the spine with a needle. The sample of CSF is tested for white blood cells and other indications of meningococcal disease.

A complete blood count (CBC) is also performed is measure the number of different types of blood cells, including white blood cells (WBCs). Different types of WBCs increase in number in characteristic ways during an infectious process, such as meningococcal disease.

Additional tests may be performed in order to rule out or confirm other diseases that may accompany meningococcal disease or cause similar symptoms, such as high fever, headache, and neck stiffness. These may include a throat culture, CT, or X-rays.

It is possible that a diagnosis of meningococcal disease can be missed or delayed because some symptoms, such as fever, headache, and nausea and vomiting, are similar to other diseases. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of meningococcal disease.

Treatment of meningococcal disease includes hospitalization, generally in an intensive care setting, and the intravenous administration of antibiotics. There is also a vaccine available to prevent meningococcal disease, which is often recommended or required for travellers who go to high risk areas of the world or for people, such as military personnel and college students, who live in crowded situations. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of meningococcal disease. ...more »

Meningococcal disease: Meningococcal disease is not only meningitis, but actually includes several types of disease, all caused by the Neisseria meningitidis or just "meningococcus" bacteria. Recent attention to meningococcal disease has arisen due to several epidemics in college students or school age children. Despite this media attention the age group 15-24 is actually only the second most at-risk group, with the highest incidence rates in infants less than a year old. Also significantly at risk are any children under 5 years. ...more »

Meningococcal disease: Symptoms

The symptoms of meningococcal disease can resemble symptoms of other diseases, such as influenza. They include fever, headache, stiff neck, irritability, and nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can develop rapidly and dramatically, within minutes to hours. Fever can be very high and the headache can be intense. There may also be sensitivity to light, ...more symptoms »

Meningococcal disease: Treatments

The first step in treating meningococcal disease is preventing its occurrence and spread. A vaccine to prevent meningococcal disease is available for children and certain persons at risk for the disease. They include travellers who go to high risk areas of the world and people, such as military personnel and college students, who live in crowded situations. Vaccination may ...more treatments »

Meningococcal disease: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of meningococcal disease may be delayed because some symptoms may initially be assumed to be related to another condition, such as influenza or migraine headache. Unfortunately, meningococcal disease can progress very rapidly and result in death. People with meningococcal disease have been known to go to bed early with a headache, nausea, and fever, thinking they ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Meningococcal disease

Treatments for Meningococcal disease

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease: Related Patient Stories

Meningococcal disease: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Meningococcal disease.

Types of Meningococcal disease

  • Subtypes by body part attacked:
    • Meningococcal septicemia - blood poisoning from the bacteria
    • Meningococcemia - a mild form of blood poisoning not as severe as septicemia
  • Subtypes based on serogroup:
    • Meningococcus A - most common in Africa; causes epidemics.
  • more types...»

Rare Types of Meningococcal disease:

Rare types of Meningococcal disease include:

Diagnostic Tests for Meningococcal disease

Test for Meningococcal disease in your own home

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Meningococcal disease: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Meningococcal disease:

Causes of Meningococcal disease

  • Meningococcal meningitis is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis (also known as meningococcus)
  • more causes...»

More information about causes of Meningococcal disease:

Disease Topics Related To Meningococcal disease

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Meningococcal disease:

Meningococcal disease: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Meningococcal disease

Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases, because it may cause only mild or even absent symptoms. Although the...read more »

Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand's disease is quite common in women, but often fails to be correctly...read more »

Undiagnosed stroke leads to misdiagnosed aphasia: BBC News UK reported on a man who had been institutionalized and treated for mental illness because he suffered from sudden inability to speak. This was...read more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off...read more »

Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for a patient to show mental decline to dementia. Whereas this can, of course, occur due...read more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be...read more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure. The "cuff" around the...read more »

Mild traumatic brain injury often remains undiagnosed: Although the symptoms of severe brain injury are hard to miss, it is less clear for milder injuries, or even those causing a mild concussion...read more »

MTBI misdiagnosed as balance problem: When a person has symptoms such as vertigo or dizziness, a diagnosis of brain injury may go overlooked. This is particularly true of mild traumatic...read more »

Brain pressure condition often misdiagnosed as dementia: A condition that results from an excessive pressure of CSF within the brain is often misdiagnosed. It may be misdiagnosed as ...read more »

Post-concussive brain injury often misdiagnosed: A study found that soldiers who had suffered a concussive injury in battle often were misdiagnosed on...read more »

Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients. These patients are not the...read more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see ...read more »

Meningococcal disease: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Meningococcal disease

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Meningococcal disease:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Meningococcal disease, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Meningococcal disease: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Meningococcal disease

Medical research articles related to Meningococcal disease include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Meningococcal disease: Animations

Prognosis for Meningococcal disease

Prognosis for Meningococcal disease: The death rate ranges from 5% to 15%, with young children and adults over 50 having the highest risk of death.

Research about Meningococcal disease

Visit our research pages for current research about Meningococcal disease treatments.

Clinical Trials for Meningococcal disease

The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Meningococcal disease include:

Prevention of Meningococcal disease

Prevention information for Meningococcal disease has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Meningococcal disease.

Statistics for Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease: Broader Related Topics

Meningococcal disease Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Meningococcal disease, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Definitions of Meningococcal disease:

A species of gram-negative, aerobic BACTERIA. It is a commensal and pathogen only of humans, and can be carried asymptomatically in the NASOPHARYNX. When found in cerebrospinal fluid it is the causative agent of cerebrospinal meningitis (MENINGITIS, MENINGOCOCCAL). It is also found in venereal discharges and blood. There are at least 13 serogroups based on antigenic differences in the capsular polysaccharides; the ones causing most meningitis infections being A, B, C, Y, and W-135. Each serogroup can be further classified by serotype, serosubtype, and immunotype. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Meningococcal disease is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Meningococcal disease, or a subtype of Meningococcal disease, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Ophanet, a consortium of European partners, currently defines a condition rare when it affects 1 person per 2,000. They list Meningococcal disease as a "rare disease".
Source - Orphanet

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