Meningococcemia

  • Medical Author:
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

  • Medical Author: Randall Ben Lamfers, MD
  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Meningococcemia facts

  • Meningococcemia is a bloodstream infection cause by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis.
  • N. meningitidis is a contagious bacterium and is spread from person to person via respiratory secretions.
  • Initially, patients present with fever and general aches. A rash is often present. Patients with meningococcemia are usually seriously ill.
  • Complications include shock, failure of multiple organs, lack of circulation to the extremities, and death. Patients may also develop or present with meningitis.
  • Meningococcemia is treated with intravenous antibiotics.
  • Early treatment reduces the risk of complications and death.
  • Most disease is caused by four types (serogroups) of N. meningitidis. A vaccine is available to help prevent four of the five serogroups. The vaccine is recommended at 11 years of age, with a booster dose at 16 years of age.
  • Vaccination is also recommended for people at high risk of getting the infection, including those with a missing spleen or a specific type of defect in their immune system. People who travel to areas where outbreaks are occurring should be vaccinated before travel.
  • People who have had close contact with an infected patient (for example, a household member with face-to-face contact, a child's playmate, etc.) should receive antibiotics to reduce the risk of disease. These "prophylactic" antibiotics should be started as soon as possible but certainly within two weeks of exposure.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/7/2015

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