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.

Meningococcal disease 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 meningococcal disease 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.



A single dose of Menactra is free for people aged 13-25 years and in their first year of living in boarding school hostels, tertiary education halls of residence, military barracks, or prisons. The Menactra vaccine protects against four of the common strains of Meningococcal disease (A,C,W,Y) which account for about half of the cases in New Zealand. Meningococcal B can be vaccinated against with Bexsero, and this is encouraged, but not funded for this group.

Both vaccines are funded for individuals who have been exposed to a case of Meningococcal disease, or who are immunocompromised - see more detail on the Ministry website.

Information for health professionals

Information for the public

For more information on meningococcal disease visit:

    Last updated 11 October 2022.