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.

* On 26 November 2018 the Minister of Health announced a decision to implement a meningococcal vaccination programme in Northland. For more information on the vaccination programme including FAQs, visit the Northland DHB website.

Although there have been meningococcal W disease cases in other parts of the country, at this stage the rates are small and we do not have other community outbreaks. The Ministry of Health is monitoring the situation closely and will work with other district health boards if there are increases in cases in their regions.

Information for health professionals

Information for the public

For more information on meningococcal disease visit:

    Last updated 6 April 2022.