Has epidemic potential: Meningococci can cause amputation or death

In the US state of Virginia, health authorities have documented a “meningococcal outbreak”. Thirty people have become ill since June 2022, three times the normal rate for the same period. Additionally, five people have died, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health. READ: Four-month-old baby in Passacabarros dies of bacterial meningitis

About 1 in 10 adults carries meningococci (Neisseria meningitidis). Meningococci are divided into at least 12 so-called serogroups, of which five cause the most disease: A, B, C, W and Y. “B” serogroup is the most commonly diagnosed, accounting for 66%.

If a person has a strong immune system and childhood vaccinations are effective, the infection will go unnoticed.

However, if the disease manifests, it can cause brain damage, hearing loss, or cognitive impairment.

Meningitis caused by meningococcal infection

In two-thirds of cases, the disease progresses to meningitis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), meningococci are the most common cause of bacterial meningitis. Particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, epidemics occur repeatedly, with incidence rates as high as 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Read: Bacterial meningitis, an unpredictable and deadly disease

Sepsis, or blood poisoning, can also be caused by infection. In some cases, limb amputation is necessary.

About one in five people infected will develop these serious consequences. About 10 percent of meningococcal infections are fatal.


Meningococci colonize the throat and nasal cavities. The incubation period is three to four days, but may be two to ten days in individual cases.

Meningococci can be spread from one infected person to another through coughing, sneezing or shaking hands. This can also happen during kissing. Carriers are contagious and can spread the bacteria even if they are not sick themselves. READ: Experts weigh in on baby death from bacterial meningitis

Initial symptoms are often nonspecific. They often resemble the flu or the common cold. Then comes high fever, photophobia, and neck stiffness. Bleeding may also occur on the skin, usually starting on the legs.

Meningococcal vaccine protects

Infants and young children are particularly susceptible to meningococcal infections because their immune systems are not yet as strong as those of adults.

People who live in small spaces, such as small apartments, group homes, or refugee camps, are also at high risk because of the way germs spread.

The World Health Organization recommends the following hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing and vaccination.

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