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What is meningococcal disease?

Page last updated 12 October 2018

Meningococcal disease refers to the group of illnesses that can be caused by bacterium commonly known as meningococcus (or Neisseria meningitidis).

Meningococcal bacteria live naturally in the back of the nose and throat in about 10% of the population without causing illness. In a small number of people, the bacteria passes the lining of the throat, enters the bloodstream and consequently causes meningococcal disease.

The infection can develop very quickly, however, if the infection is diagnosed early enough and the right antibiotics are given quickly, many people can make a complete recovery. However, for IMD, between 5-10% of people will die, even with treatment. Others will be left with permanent disabilities including loss of limbs or some form of brain damage.

Sources & Citations

  1. Australian Government. Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition. 4.10 Meningococcal disease. Available at: (accessed 18 April 2018).
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningitis. Causes and spread to others. Available at (accessed 18 April 2018).
  3. Victoria State Government. Meningococcal disease. Available at (accessed 18 April 2018).
  4. Meningococcal Australia. The Facts. Available at (accessed 26 April 2018).

SPANZ.MENAC.18.05.0181a - Date of preparation May 2018