Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. If symptoms occur, the patient must see a doctor immediately.

The diagnosis of meningococcal meningitis/meningococcemia is suspected from the patient’s clinical history and presenting signs and symptoms. A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) may be performed and blood tests will be immediately taken to confirm the diagnosis. Spinal tap involves placing a (hollow) needle between the vertebrae in the lower back where fluid in the spinal canal is readily accessible. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is then collected into small test tubes which are sent for analysis. Blood is also collected for culture. More specialized laboratory tests are needed for the identification of the serogroups as well as for testing susceptibility to antibiotics.


Meningococcal disease is potentially fatal and should always be viewed as a medical emergency!  Health care must be immediate and aggressive to prevent death and/or serious side effects. Once meningococcal disease is suspected or diagnosed, it is treated with doses of antibiotics. Early treatment is essential to reduce the risk of death to below 15%, although the risk is higher among the elderly. However, because the disease can progress so quickly, early treatment does not guarantee a full recovery.

Meningococcal disease requires people in close prolonged contacts with an infected person to be treated with prophylactic antibiotics.