Symptoms of meningococcal disease can develop over 1 or 2 days, or in just a few hours.
Early symptoms can look like the flu or a cold. They usually become worse quickly.
Meningococcal disease can cause inflammation of the membranes around the brain (meningitis) or blood infection (septicaemia).
Brain and spinal cord infection (meningococcal meningitis)
When meningococcus bacteria cause meningitis it is called meningococcal meningitis. This is when meningococcal bacteria infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord and cause swelling.
In the early stages, you usually feel unwell, with fever, headache and vomiting, just like a cold or flu.
- stiff neck
- eyes being more sensitive to light (photophobia)
In pēpi meningitis may cause poor eating and drinking, low alertness, vomiting, and a high-pitch cry. Small pēpi may become unable to settle and dislike being held. They may have a bulging fontanel (the soft spot on the top of your baby’s head).
About 1 in 12 tamariki and 1 in 6 older adults who get pneumococcal meningitis die of the infection. People who live may have long-term problems, such as hearing loss or developmental delay.
Blood infection (septicaemia)
Blood infections can be very serious. Symptoms of a blood infection are often like a cold or the flu.
Early symptoms often include:
- feeling very unwell.
Most people develop a rash with reddish-purple spots that can be like small pinpricks or big blotches. It does not become pale or go white when pressed on.
As the infection develops, more severe symptoms may show up. These include:
- confusion or the inability to think clearly
- poor circulation leading to cold hands and feet
- dangerously low blood pressure
- multiple organ failure.
Blood infections can lead to loss of a limb or limbs, or death.
Who to contact for medical advice
If you have symptoms that you are worried about:
- call Healthline for free advice 0800 611 116
- call 111 for an ambulance in an emergency.