FAQ About Meningococccemia

  1. What is meningococcemia?
    • Meningococcemia or meningococcal meningitis is an acute communicable infection caused by gram-negative bacteria. Neisseria meningitidis. There are several groups and sub-types of this organism. The bacteria are sensitive to sunlight and changes in temperature. They do not survive for 30 minutes. The disease usually occurs sporadically in the Philippines. Epidemics rarely occur.
  2. What are the signs and symptoms of meningococcemia?
    • meningococcemiaMeningococcemia is usually characterized by a sudden onset of fever, nausea, vomiting and frequently, a petechial rash which becomes bigger with reddish or purplish color located mainly on the extremities. The patient usually becomes prrogressively sicker. Meningitis with symptoms such as stiff neck, intense headache, back pain and mental status changes is the most common localized manifestation. Meningococcal infection may also be asymptomatic, or may produce only acute nasopharyngitis.
  3. Is meningococcemia fatal?
    • Yes. Up to 50% of cases are expected to die especially with the serious type of the disease, but this is drastically reduced to less than 10% with early dignosis and appropriate treatment.
  4. How does meningococcemia spread?
    • Meningoceccemia is transmitted by direct contact with droplet secretions from the nose and throat of infected persons. This is called person to person transmission, which often occurs through sneezing, coughing, kissing or sharing of eating utensils. Contact with materials soiled by these discharges may also transmit the infection.
  5. Can we get it from animals?
    • No. The bacteria only live in the nasopharynx of infected humans. Patients and carriers (infected individuals individuals whoa re apparently well) transmit the disease.
  6. Who are commonly affected?
    • Meningococcemia commonly affects children, but it can occur among adults especially in crowded living conditions.
  7. How long will the first sign or symptom appear after being exposed to the infectious secretions?
    • The incubation period varies from 2 to 10 days, commonly 3-4 days.
  8. How long can patients or carriers transmit the disease?
    • Infected persons can transmit the disease even before the manifestations of signs and symptoms. Patients under treatment with antibiotics will usually not be infectious after 24 hours and carriers without symptoms continue to shed the bacteria indefinitely until they are detected and treated.
  9. Can meningococcemia be treated?
    • Yes. Penicillin is the drug of choice. Ampicillin, chloramphenicol and sulfonamides are also effective.
  10. How do we avoid getting sick of meningococcemia?
    • Preventive antibiotic medication
      • This is recommended only for the close contacts of meningococcal patients, because unnecessary and improper use of antibiotics can lead to emergence of drug resistant bacteria.
      • Close contacts are people directly exposed to the respiratory secretions of infected people. These include: a) household members b) visitors who stayed overnight within 7 days before the illness of the case c) stayed in the same room with a case for 4 hours or more d)anyone directly exposed to the patient’s orals secretions.This is given as soon as possible after exposure to a diagnosed case as prescribed by the physician.
      • Recommended medicines for prevention: rifampicin, ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone, sulfadiazine.
    • Health workers and other close contacts should wear personal protective devices like masks and rubber gloves. Wash hands with soap and water after attending to each patient.
    • Properly dispose of articles soiled with discharges from the nose and throat of patients.
    • Avoid sharing of eating or drinking utensils.
    • Practice healthy lifestyle. Get enough rest and exercise, avoid smoking and eat well balanced diet which includes fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins to build up the immune system.
    • Avoid crowded places to minimize exposure to the disease.
  11. Do we need to undergo vaccination?
    • Vaccination is 85% to 95% protective. It starts to be protective after 5 days from the injection. Protection lasts for 2.5 to 3 years. It is not protective to children below 2 years old. It is not a recommended public health measure but it may be taken as a personal protective measure.
  12. What should be done in case a person manifests the above signs and symptoms?
    • Immediately consult a physician or visit your nearest health center or hospital.


DOH, Center for Health Development – CAR

Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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