Common questions about meningitis

What is meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is a serious bacterial infection that can cause two very deadly diseases:

Meningococcal meningitis: a life-threatening infection of the lining around your child’s spinal cord and the brain.

Meningococcemia: a more serious infection of the blood.

Bacterial meningitis is especially severe in infants and adolescent children, and can lead to brain damage and death in as little as a few hours.

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What causes meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is caused by bacteria that can quickly lead to infection of the blood or an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is passed through direct contact with fluids from the nose or throat of someone infected. This includes saliva.

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What are the symptoms of meningitis?

At first, symptoms of meningitis can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and feeling generally unwell. These symptoms progress quickly to a bad headache, stiff neck and/or a reddish-purplish, tiny, bruise-like skin rash.

If your child has these symptoms, get them to a doctor right away.

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What can happen to my child if he or she gets meningitis?

Meningitis is deadly. In fact, without immediate treatment, bacterial meningitis can lead to brain damage and death in as little as a few hours.

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Is there a treatment or cure for meningitis?

Anti-bacterials can be given to treat bacterial meningitis, but this treatment must begin very quickly. If left untreated, bacterial meningitis can cause brain damage and death within a few hours.

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How is meningitis diagnosed?

Meningitis can only be diagnosed by your doctor. The doctor will do an examination and some tests. The most important test is called a lumbar puncture. Other tests, such as blood tests, a CT scan, or an MRI, may be used as well.

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What is the name of the immunization that includes protection against meningitis?

The meningococcal conjugate (Men C) and MCV4 vaccines will prompt your child’s immune system to build antibodies – or “armour” – that will protect your child from meningitis.

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At what age should my child be immunized against meningitis?

To be protected against meningitis, your child needs multiple doses of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, at the ages and stages recommended in the routine schedule. Your child is recommended to receive meningococcal conjugate (Men C) vaccine at four months of age, followed by a dose at 12 months of age, and a dose of MCV4 in Grade 9.

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Are there side effects to the meningitis vaccine?

Side effects of the meningitis vaccine are usually very mild, and temporary. Your child may have a headache, sore muscles or nausea, and his or her arm or thigh might be a bit red or sore where the needle went in. These side effects are very common, usually happen about 12 to 24 hours after the immunization, and usually go away within a few days. For tips on managing symptoms following immunization, click here.

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Is this disease called any other names?