There are vaccines available (see below), but they don't protect against all strains (serogroups) of meningococcus. So it's important to take other precautions.
Parents, teachers and carers can help prevent the spread of meningococcal disease by keeping a watchful eye - in the home, schoolyard and at sports functions and school camps - to check that good hygiene practice is being followed.
As meningococcal bacteria are passed on via mucus, it's important to warn children against certain practices.
Precautions to take:
- food, dips, icecreams
- drinks, bottles, straws
- lipstick or lip gloss
- mouth guards
- musical instruments with mouth pieces
- don't suck the end of a shared pen or pencil
- don't suck baby's dummy before putting it in baby's mouth
- watch out for toddlers sucking and sharing toys
The predominant strains of meningococcal bacteria differ from country to country, and even from state to state. In Australia, the majority of cases (around 60%) are caused by Group B - for which there is no vaccine yet available.
However there IS now a vaccine for C- strain - which is responsible for about a third of cases, and has a higher rate of more severe disease, complications and death.
For adults and children over 12 months, one vaccination will protect (against C-strain only) for approximately 15 years, and possibly longer. For babies under 12 months, a course of vaccinations is necessary.
Children and teenagers aged from 1-19 years have been progressively vaccinated free of charge under the government's vaccination program during the four year period from 2003- 2006. People of any age can be vaccinated at their own cost.
There is a travel vaccine which gives short term protection against some of the strains more common in other countries. Check with your doctor.
Remember, while vaccination will give you long term protection against the deadly C-strain, it won't protect you from catching another strain with the same symptoms, which can also cause death. So it's still important to be vigilant, and to take other precautions.
Information & Images courtesy 'Fighting Meningococcal Diseases' 2003 Media One
Teach your children not to share food or drinks.
Don\'t drink from another person\'s water bottle.