In the United States between 1998 and 2007, around 1,500 people were infected with meningococcal disease, a type of meningitis, according to the National Meningitis Association. The bacterium Neisseria meningitidis causes meningococcal disease, with the majority of cases occurring in children and adolescents. When a person becomes infected, Neisseria meningitidis causes an inflammation of the meninges, which cover both the spinal cord and the brain. Symptoms of meningococcal disease include photophobia (a sensitivity to light), purpura (bruise-like areas), a severe headache, nausea, vomiting, petechiae (a rash that has pinpoint red spots), and a stiff neck. Some patients with meningococcal disease may have rapid breathing, decreased consciousness and agitation.
Meningococcal disease can be deadly. The National Meningitis Association noted that 11 percent of those infected will die, with MedlinePlus adding that those at highest risk for dying from meningococcal disease are young children and adults who are over age 50.