Meningococcal disease can be either meningitis (infection in the linings of the brain and spinal cord) and/or septicaemia (infection in the blood). The disease may start with a flu like illness, and then rapidly progresses to a more serious illness with fever, headache, drowsiness, vomiting, stiff neck, a skin rash like blood spots under the skin, and sensitivity to bright lights.

Remember that it can be very hard to tell meningococcal disease from other illnesses in its early stages, especially in babies, so check on sick people frequently. If a sick person has the symptoms above or if you are worried call Healthline 0800 611 116 for free health advice from registered nurses, 24 hours a day, or contact your family doctor or an after hours medical centre urgently.

The following steps will help prevent many types of illnesses from being spread in our community:

Prevent the spread of germs by making sure everyone covers their mouth and nose with tissues when coughing and sneezing and put used tissues in a covered bin or a plastic bag. If there are no tissues available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve – not your hands. Remember to always wash your hands afterwards.

Encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly. Clean hands are the single most important factor in preventing the spread of germs. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water and dry them for 20 seconds with a dry towel or paper towel, or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Hands should be washed before preparing food and eating, after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, or visiting the toilet.

Vaccination - the meningococcal B vaccine is on the National Immunisation Schedule for babies at 3 months, 5 months, and 12 months old. It will protect your pēpi (baby) against meningococcal B. All tamariki under 5 years old, who have not been immunised against Men B, can catch up for free until 31 August 2025.

For more information see Healthify

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Last updated 4 July 2023.