Meningococcal disease is a severe infection that occurs when the meningococcal germ 'invades' the body from the throat or nose. It does not occur in people who carry the germ but rather occurs in people who have very recently (within the previous 7 days) acquired the germ from a healthy 'carrier'.
Meningococcal disease occurs in two main forms or it can occur as a combination of these two forms:
Septicaemia occurs when the germ invades the bloodstream and causes blood poisoning.
Meningitis occurs when the germ infects the outer lining around the brain and spinal cord.
How easy is it to catch the disease?
Although the germ is spread in droplets that are shed from the nose or throat it is not, fortunately, easy to catch the disease. This is because the meningococcal germ does not survive for long outside the body. Close and prolonged contact with a carrier is usually required for the germ to spread to other people.
Because the germ is not easily spread, the disease is uncommon. Young children under 5 years of age, and young adults (15 - 24 years of age) are at highest risk of acquiring the disease, and there is usually a seasonal increase in the winter to early spring months.
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