Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness that is caused by the type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus [muh-ning-goh-KOK-us]. The illness most people are familiar with is meningococcal meningitis, which people sometimes just call meningitis. This usually means the lining of the brain and spinal cord have become infected with these bacteria. But these bacteria can also cause other severe illnesses, like bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).
Meningococcus bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., living in close quarters, kissing). Although it can be very serious, meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics that prevent severe illness and reduce the spread of infection from person to person. Quick medical attention is extremely important if meningococcal disease is suspected. Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best defense against meningococcal disease. Maintaining healthy habits, like getting plenty of rest and not coming into close contact with people who are sick, can also help.
Click here to view a You Tube video about meningococcal disease.