Meningococcal disease can appear in several different forms
as meningitis, as septicaemia (blood poisoning),
or as a combination of both.
Meningitis is not the same as meningococcal disease. There
are many different types of meningitis. It's the more dangerous
bacterial form which may appear
as meningococcal disease.
of the stages of the distinctive meningococcal rash (bleeding
into the skin) which can be a critical symptom of deadly
septicemia (blood poisoning).
seen cases where someone has been well at breakfast - and
dead by dinner!"
Dr Clayton Golledge, Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases
disease is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death
within hours if not recognised and treated in time. Although
the majority of victims will recover fully, 10% of those infected
will die, and around 20% will have permanent disabilities,
ranging from learning difficulties, sight and hearing problems,
to liver and kidney failure, scarring caused by skin grafts
and loss of fingers, toes and limbs.
of the reasons this disease is hard to identify is that 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
Meningitis (bacterial form)
Inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (the
'meninges'). Symptoms may include a severe headache, fever,
fatigue, stiff or painful neck, sensitivity to light or convulsions.
There are many different forms of meningitis - including
fungal, viral and bacterial. It's only the more serious bacterial
form which may be involved in meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal meningitis can result in permanent disabilities
such as deafness or brain injury and can in
some cases cause death.
This is the more dangerous and deadly of the two illnesses.
It happens when the bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply
uncontrollably, damaging the walls of the blood vessels and
causing bleeding into the skin (which results in the distinctive
Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, vomiting, cold hands
and feet, cold shivers, severe aches or pain in the muscles,
joints, chest or abdomen, rapid breathing, diarrhoea
and, in the later stages, a pinprick or purple bruise-like
rash (see The rash).
Septicemia can lead to death within hours, or permanent disabilities
such as severe scarring due to skin grafts and amputation
of the fingers, toes, arms or legs - due to lack of blood
circulation in the extremities of the body.