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Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by the meningococcus bacterium.
Occasionally the infection can cause a serious and potentially fatal condition by infecting the lining around the brain (called meningitis), or by infecting the blood (septicaemia). In Australia, serogroup B and serogroup C of the meningococcus are the main causes of the disease.
Not all people exposed to the germ develop disease. Many people who are exposed eliminate the germ naturally.
Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, loss of appetite, stiff neck, aching muscles and dislike of bright lights. A red-purple rash can develop and looks like bruises or blood blisters under the skin. Sometimes the illness develops as quickly as 1-2 hours and can be fatal in about 1 in 10 cases.
The bacteria are spread by exchanging secretions from the nose and throat, as occurs in mouth kissing, or infants mouthing and sharing toys.
Vaccines are available that can give long lasting protection against meningococcal serogroup C disease. There are several brands but they all offer long-term protection against meningococcal serogroup C disease.
They are similar to other vaccines and can include:
No. The vaccine protects a person by producing antibodies that will recognise and destroy the bacteria in the future if the person is exposed.
Each of the available Meningococcal C vaccines have been in used in the UK since the end of 1999.
One dose is required for people older than 12 months of age.
Yes. The vaccine does not contain live microorganisms, so cannot be passed from a vaccinated person to a not vaccinated person. Therefore, there is no risk of a pregnant women contracting meningococcal disease from her child as a result of the vaccine.
This vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.
Vaccination with the conjugate meningococcal serogroup C vaccine is considered safe for the mother and the child.
For more information call (02) 66207500
¹ We acknowledge the Greater Murray Centre for Public Health for compiling this handout February 2003
¹ Lester, P. etal. 2002, Conjugate Meningococcal C Vaccines – FAQ, Victorian Infections Diseases Bulletin Vol 5 Issue 3, October 2002
Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) Interim Guidelines for Meningococcal C vaccines. December 2002