Meningococcal meningitis is often misdiagnosed as something less serious because early symptoms are similar to the flu. The most common symptoms in adolescents to adults are vomiting, high fever, stiff neck, headache, confusion, sensitivity to light, weakness, and seizures. Keep in mind that not all these symptoms happen at the same time! Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately! Delay can prove deadly!

In infants and children (in addition to the above symptoms) they may experience lethargy, refusing to feed, bulging fontanels, blank staring expression, pale blotchy skin color, high-pitch cry/whimpering, fretfulness, arching back or neck retraction. They may look ill but specific signs and symptoms may vary with age. For infants, the symptoms are nonspecific and difficult to determine whether they have meningitis or not. Minutes count so if you suspect meningitis, take the child to the doctor without delay.

Meningococcemia is often fatal progressing rapidly within hours of the first symptoms. Symptoms may include small bleeding spots on the skin like a bruise manifested by reddish/brownish rash or purplish blotches. The person may have cold hands and feet, experience numbness & tingling, disorientation & abdominal problems.

Do not wait for the rash to appear before getting treatment!

Meningitis and meningococcemia can occur together or separately. Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate therapy instituted, up to 15% of patients die typically within 24-48 hours of onset of symptoms. The disease can lead to shock, death or serious complications, including hearing loss, brain damage, kidney disease or limb amputations.