What is it?
How is it spread?
Meningococcal disease is spread through close contact with the infected person's respiratory secretions. Examples of exposure include mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, being coughed in the face by an infected patient, and suctioning or intubation of an infected patient without wearing a mask.
The period of communicability is 7 days before onset of symptoms to
24 hours following the start of appropriate therapy.
Signs and Symptoms of Meningococcal
Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the brain and spinal
cord. Symptoms are fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, and
sometimes a rash. Meningococcal septicemia (meningococcemia), infection
of the blood, presents with symptoms of acute febrile illness,
occasionally associated with a rash.
Prevention of Transmission
Patients diagnosed with meningococcal disease (or whenever there is a
suspicion of infection) should be placed on Respiratory Isolation until
the patient has received effective therapy for 24 hours. A private room
is required, but a negative pressure room is not necessary. Infection
Control and the Health Unit must be notified immediately to identify and
Followup of Contacts
Chemoprophylaxis should be given, as soon as possible, to close
contacts of patients diagnosed with meningococcal disease (ie. staff
exposed to respiratory secretions, household contacts,
day care contacts). Staff who have just been in the same room with an
infected patient do not require treatment, as there is little risk of
getting the disease in this way.
There is a vaccine available for some of the meningococcal bacteria, and this may be used in large outbreak situations. However, the vaccine does not work against all types of meningococcal strains, and may not work in all situations.
Rifampin is the drug of choice for treating meningococcal disease and
contacts of meningococcus. Rifampin may stain feces, urine, saliva and
tears a red-orange colour. Contact lens wearers should not wear lenses
during treatment. Rifampin may also interfere with the effectiveness of
oral contraceptives, and is contraindicated in pregnancy and in