Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious bacterial disease.

About one in every 10 people carry this germ in the nose and throat.

Although most people who 'carry' this germ don't get sick, they are able to spread it to other people who, if infected, may become very unwell very quickly.

There are five main strains that cause meningococcal disease - A, B, C, W and Y.

The most common strain currently in the NT is W.


Symptoms of the disease may include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • confusion or drowsiness
  • neck stiffness
  • joint pains
  • rash
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting.

When diagnosed and treated with antibiotics quickly, most people will make a full recovery. However, in some cases, it can lead to the following:

  • hearing loss
  • fits
  • limb amputation
  • renal failure
  • skin scarring.

About 8 to 10% of cases may result in death.


Meningococcal disease can be prevented by vaccination.

The meningococcal ACWY vaccine is free for:

  • babies at 12 months
  • young people aged 14 to 19
  • people with certain medical conditions (all ages).

If you're not eligible for a free vaccine, you can see your doctor for a private script.

The meningococcal B vaccine is free for:

  • Aboriginal children up to the age of 2
  • people with certain medical conditions.

Anyone else aged six weeks and over who are not eligible for the vaccine can see their GP for a private script.


Find a community care centre or remote health service.

For more information, get the meningococcal disease fact sheet and the meningococcal vaccine program fact sheet from the Department of Health ePublications website. You can also call your nearest Centre for Disease Control.

Last updated: 23 August 2022

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