MeningococcemiaMeningococcal septicemia; Meningococcal blood poisoning; Meningococcal bacteremia
Meningococcemia is an acute and potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream.
Acute means sudden or severe. Acute symptoms appear, change, or worsen rapidly. It is the opposite of chronic.
Meningococcemia is caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis . The bacteria often live in a person's upper respiratory tract without causing signs of illness. They can be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. For example, you may become infected if you are around someone with the condition and they sneeze or cough.
Family members and those closely exposed to someone with the condition are at increased risk. The infection occurs more often in winter and early spring.
There may be few symptoms at first. Some may include:
- Muscle pain
- Rash with very small red or purple spots on the feet or legs
Later symptoms may include:
- A decline in your level of consciousness
- Large areas of bleeding under the skin
Shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow. Lack of blood flow means that the cells and organs...
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms.
Blood tests will be done to rule out other infections and help confirm meningococcemia. Such tests may include:
A blood culture is a laboratory test to check for bacteria or other germs in a blood sample.
Complete blood count
Complete blood count
A complete blood count (CBC) test measures the following:The number of red blood cells (RBC count)The number of white blood cells (WBC count)The tota...
- Blood clotting studies
Other tests that may be done include:
to get a sample of spinal fluid for culture
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collection is a test to look at the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. CSF acts as a cushion, protecting the b...
and Gram stain
A skin lesion biopsy is when a small amount of skin is removed so it can be examined. The skin is tested to look for skin conditions or diseases. A...
Urinalysis is the physical, chemical, and microscopic examination of urine. It involves a number of tests to detect and measure various compounds th...
Meningococcemia is a medical emergency. People with this infection are often admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital, where they are closely monitored. They may be placed in respiratory isolation for the first 24 hours to help prevent the spread of the infection to others.
Treatments may include:
- Antibiotics given through a vein immediately
- Breathing support
Clotting factors or platelet replacement, if
Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions in which there is a problem with the body's blood clotting process. These disorders can lead to heavy a...
- Fluids through a vein
- Medicines to treat low blood pressure
- Wound care for areas of skin with blood clots
Early treatment results in a good outcome. When shock develops, the outcome is less certain.
The condition is most life threatening in those who have:
A severe bleeding disorder called
disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC
Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy...
Disseminated intravascular coagulation is a serious disorder in which the proteins that control blood clotting become overactive.
- Kidney failure
Possible complications of this infection are:
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. A joint is the area where 2 bones meet. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis....
- Bleeding disorder (DIC)
- Gangrene due to lack of blood supply
- Inflammation of blood vessels in the skin
- Inflammation of the heart muscle
- Inflammation of the heart lining
Severe damage to adrenal glands that can lead to low blood pressure (
Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome (WFS) is a collection of symptoms resulting from the failure of the adrenal glands to function normally as a result ...
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Go to the emergency room immediately if you have symptoms of meningococcemia. Call your provider if you have been around someone with the disease.
Preventive antibiotics for family members and other close contacts are often recommended. Speak with your provider about this option.
A vaccine that covers some, but not all, strains of meningococcus is recommended for children age 11 or 12. A booster is given at age 16. Unvaccinated college students who live in dormitories should also consider receiving this vaccine. It should be given a few weeks before they first move into the dorm. Talk to your provider about this vaccine.
All content below is taken in its entirety from the CDC Meningococcal ACWY Vaccines - MenACWY and MPSV4 Vaccine Information Statement (VIS): www. cd...
Anderson MS, Glode MP, Smith AL. Meningococcal disease. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases . 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 88.
Stephens DS, Apicella MA. Neisseria meningitidis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition . 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 213.
Review Date: 11/27/2016
Reviewed By: Arnold Lentnek, MD, Infectious Diseases Medical Practice of NY and Clinical Research Centers of CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.