Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that causes two very serious illnesses: meningitis (an infection of the membranes that cover the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning).

It can affect anyone – but it’s more common in children under the age of 5, teenagers, and young adults. Students in their first year of tertiary education living in hostel accommodation may also be at higher risk. Meningitis is difficult to catch as the bacteria don't live for very long outside of the body. The bacteria passes from person to person through secretions from the nose or throat, for example by coughing or sneezing.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis as it can develop quickly. It can be treated with antibiotics, but early treatment is very important.

If you notice any of the symptoms of meningitis, contact your family doctor or call the Healthline on 0800 611 116 immediately.


For more information on meningococcal disease visit

Ministry of Health website

Immunisation Advisory Centre

Last updated 23 May 2017.