When Meningococcal Disease Invades Your Body
Meningococcus bacteria is able to spread through actions such as kissing and sharing drinks and utensils. All of which involve the exchange of a person’s saliva. Usually those that live in the same household as an infected person are at higher risk of getting infected.
A type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus, causes meningococcal disease. Most do not know this but about 10% of people are carriers of the disease and have the meningococcus bacteria sitting at the back of their noses and throats. The bacteria do not cause the carriers any harm and they show no symptoms.
The bacteria become a problem only when they enter parts of the body which are usually free of bacteria such as the brain (meningococcal meningitis) and spinal cord or the blood (meningococcal septicemia or bacteremia).
How do I know if I have meningococcal meningitis?
Those who meningococcal meningitis begin to show symptoms only three to seven days after exposure which include fever, headache and a stiff neck. Sometimes an infected person may even develop nausea and vomiting, Because this bacteria infects the brain directly, it affects a persons sensitivity to light (photophobia) and may alter their mental status (confusion).
As you may have noticed, these classic symptoms are hard to notice in infants. If an Infant appears slow or inactive, irritable, is vomiting and uninterested in eating, it is likely that he/she may be suffering from meningitis, that may be due to meningococcus
How do I know if I have meningococcal septicemia/meningococcocemia or bacteremia?
Meningococcemia is different from meningococcemia. Instead of feeling hot due to the fever, you may experience cold hands and feet or cold chills. Those with meningococcemia may vomit and experience diarrhoea. Severe aches or pain in the muscles, chest or stomach have also been reported as symptoms of meningococcemia.
Meningococcemia is particularly horrifying. In its later stages, a dark purple rash may appear indicating that the flesh has started to rot due to bacteria throwing septic emboli that block small arteries and capillaries.. This is a sign of gangrene. In non-fatal cases, permanent disabilities can include amputation of toes, fingers or limbs or severe scaring.
Prevent the invasion!
Meningococcal vaccines are key in preventing this terrible disease. Though they do not protect against all types types (“strains”) of N. meningitides, they protect us against the 5 main types that is responsible for almost all meningococcal disease infections in people. Meningococcal vaccines are also available for those ages 2 and above.
However, adolescents ages 16 to 21 are being singled out for this vaccine because they are most susceptible to meningococcal disease. In fact some colleges in United States of America will insist that students get the meningococcal vaccine before attending.