The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease are spread in saliva and mucous from the mouth and nose of an infected person. They live only for a few minutes outside the body. Good hygiene provides effective protection against many infections.
- Cover one's mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- Dispose of used tissues
- Wash hands
- Avoid sharing anything that comes in contact with the mouth
The following information is intended to help people assess their own risk when they know of a person who has meningococcal disease.
Once a case has been diagnosed in a school setting, there is usually concern that the disease will spread. People who are susceptible are those who have had close contact with the infected person. Close contacts are well defined. Classmates of an infected person are considered close contacts if direct contact with secretions from a sick person are likely in any of the following situations:
- Living in the same house
- Sharing a bed
- Sharing anything that has been in contact with the mouth or tongue of the infected person
It is important to note that close contacts do not pose a risk to others and may continue to attend school.
Depending on the circumstances, public health officials may recommend that close contacts receive antibiotics, vaccine or both to prevent additional cases of meningococcal disease. Family members of close contacts do not require preventive treatment. In most cases, classes and school related activities can continue as planned.
For more information about preventive treatment of close contacts, click here.
Index of Meningococcal Disease in Different Settings: