Meningococcal Meningitis and Septicemia
Frequently Asked Question
- What exactly is meningitis?
Meningitis is an infection of the meninges (a thin membrane that surrounds
the brain and spinal cord).
- How many types are there?
There are two main types of meningitis, viral and bacterial. The viral type
is more common and less severe. Bacterial meningitis is caused by meningococcus,
which is an infection of the blood stream.
- How is it spread?
The germ is carried in the saliva and/or droplets from the nose of an infected
person. This includes kissing, sharing food, drinks, cigarettes, or other
things that might contain saliva. The bacteria cannot live long outside the
human body, so the infections should not be considered as contagious as,
for example, the flu. Casual contact or simply breathing the air near a
person with meningitis will not spread the disease.
- Can anyone get meningoccocal or septicemia?
Yes, but certain age groups appear to be more susceptible. These age groups
include kids under five, those in their teens to early 20's, and those over 55.
- What are the symptoms of meningitis and septicemia?
Nausea/vomiting, stiff neck, red/purplish rash, headache, eyes sensitive to
It is vital that anyone showing these symptoms go a hospital emergency room
as soon as possible. People with septicemia may only have a fever, malaise
and the rash.
- How is it treated?
Early detection is the key to preventing serious illness or death. A number
of antibiotics are effective in treating meningococcal meningitis, but the
treatment must be started early in the course of the disease. That is why
it's critical for people showing symptoms to seek medical treatment immediately.
- What should be done for people who have been exposed to meningitis?
There are antibiotics that can be given if someone has been exposed to the
bacteria. If there is evidence of the disease spreading with a group, such
as a family, school or friends, preventive antibiotics may be prescribed.
Consulting with your personal physician is important to determine whether
or not you need treatment.
Additional information on meningococcal meningitis and septicemia
Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov
Meningitis Foundations of America: www.musa.org
or (480) 270-2652.
For further questions, please contact:
Santa Clara County Public Health Nursing at (408) 792-5050 (Revised 01/14)
San Mateo County Public Health at (650) 573-2877 (Revised 12/13)
Alameda County Public Health at (510) 795-2400