Meningococcal Disease - Information for Health Professionals

Meningococcal Disease - Information for Health Professionals

HE Code: 
Poster A3
Publication date: 
5 March 2013
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Meningococcal disease information for health professionals including signs and symptoms and recommended antibiotics for suspected cases.

Symptoms and signs of meningococcal disease may include the following:

  • fever, malaise, prostration, typically with steady deterioration
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • neck stiffness
  • dislike of bright lights
  • rash – petechial or purpuric or maculopapular. A rash may not be present in the early stages of the disease and does not occur in about one-third of cases
  • young children refusing drinks or feeds
  • sleepy, difficult to rouse
  • joint or muscle pains
  • occasionally in young adults, irrational behaviour.

Young infants and children

Meningococcal septicaemia is more common in infants and young children and the illness may be non-specific and rapidly fatal.

Signs may include:

  • tachycardia
  • altered responsiveness
  • irritability and/or floppiness
  • refusing to feed
  • poor peripheral perfusion.

Notify all suspected cases as soon as possible to the Medical Officer of Health through your nearest public hospital. This includes out-of-hours notification.

Recommended antibiotics

Prior to transfer to hospital, medical practitioners should administer parenteral antibiotics in all suspected cases.

Over-treatment is acceptable, as failure to treat may be fatal.

The recommended antibiotics are:

  Benzyl penicillin Amoxycillin
Adults 1.2 g (2 megaunits) IV (or IM) 1–2 g IV (or IM)
Children 25–50 mg/kg IV (or IM) 50–100 mg/kg IV (or IM)

If these antibiotics are not available, almost any parenterally administered antibiotic in appropriate dosage will inhibit the growth of meningococci.

Patients with a documented history of anaphylaxis to penicillin and who are suspected of suffering from meningococcal disease should be sent immediately to hospital without pre-admission antibiotics.

If you are not sure if it is meningococcal disease:

  • plan a review timeframe within 6 hours
  • advise to return within 12 to 24 hours
  • advise parents/caregivers to check person every hour for the next 6 to 12 hours and then every 2 hours
  • advise young adults not to remain on their own if they are sick.

Vaccines for meningococcal disease are available, but they are not free. These vaccines do not protect against all types of meningococcal diseases – just strains A, C, Y and W 135.

There is currently no vaccine available that protects against meningococcal B. Even if someone has received the MeNZB vaccine between 2004 and 2008, they are unlikely to still have protection against group B meningococcal disease and they are definitely not protected from other strains of meningococcal disease.

For more detailed information on vaccines go to: