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Meningococcemia facts

  • Meningococcemia is a bloodstream infection cause by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis.
  • N. meningitidis is a contagious bacterium and is spread from person to person via respiratory secretions.
  • Initially, patients present with fever and general aches. A rash is often present. Patients with meningococcemia are usually seriously ill.
  • Complications include shock, failure of multiple organs, lack of circulation to the extremities, and death. Patients may also develop or present with meningitis.
  • Meningococcemia is treated with intravenous antibiotics.
  • Early treatment reduces the risk of complications and death.
  • Most disease is caused by four types (serogroups) of N. meningitidis. A vaccine is available to help prevent four of the five serogroups. The vaccine is recommended at 11 years of age, with a booster dose at 16 years of age.
  • Vaccination is also recommended for people at high risk of getting the infection, including those with a missing spleen or a specific type of defect in their immune system. People who travel to areas where outbreaks are occurring should be vaccinated before travel.
  • People who have had close contact with an infected patient (for example, a household member with face-to-face contact, a child's playmate, etc.) should receive antibiotics to reduce the risk of disease. These "prophylactic" antibiotics should be started as soon as possible but certainly within two weeks of exposure.


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