Meningococcal Meningitis and Septicemia
Frequently Asked Question
  1. What exactly is meningitis?
    Meningitis is an infection of the meninges (a thin membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. What are the symptoms of meningitis and septicemia?
    Nausea/vomiting, stiff neck, red/purplish rash, headache, eyes sensitive to light, confusion/lethargy/drowsiness
    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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Where can I get information about immunizations?
Additional information on meningococcal meningitis and septicemia:
Centers for Disease Control: or 1-800-CDCINFO or 1-800-232-4636.
Meningitis Foundations of America: or (480) 270-2652.
For further questions, please contact:
Santa Clara County Public Health Nursing at (408) 792-5050
San Mateo County Public Health at (650) 573-2877

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