Meningococcal disease, which includes meningococcal meningitis and meningococcal sepsis, is defined as any infection that’s caused by the bacteria meningococci. Although rare, it’s very serious and potentially life-threatening. It can kill an healthy young person within 1 day after the first symptoms appear.
The incubation period of meningococcal disease is 3 to 4 days, with a range of 2 to 10 days. Meningococcal bacteria can make a person extremely ill by infecting the blood (septicemia) or by infecting the fluid of the spinal cord and around the brain (meningitis). Because this disease progresses quickly, it is important to be diagnosed and start treatment as soon as possible.
Meningococcal bacteria live naturally in the back of the nose and throat in about 10 per cent of the population without causing illness. In a small number of people, a particular strain of the bacteria gets through the lining of the throat, enters the bloodstream and causes invasive meningococcal disease.
Less than 1% of patients, mainly adults, can present with one or more episodes of spiking fever, arthralgia, or arthritis and a recurrent rash; this syndrome is designated chronic benign meningococcemia. How these patients tolerate the potentially lethal bacteria for several weeks in their bloodstream is not understood. These patients develop recurrent fevers over days to several weeks. About 20% will later develop meningitis.
Major research on disease:
Real-time polymerase chain reaction and culture in the diagnosis of invasive group B streptococcal disease in infants: a retrospective study.Blood cultures during febrile episodes are not consistently positive and they are usually negative when patients are afebrile. The source of the organism during the recurrent febrile episodes is unknown.