University of Maryland School of Medicine

Department of Emergency Medicine

University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine

UMEM Educational Pearls

This winter season has brought a rise in influenza and RSV activity in Maryland and in many parts of the country. It is also important to remember other potentially lethal infections that are prevalent in the winter and early spring months, such as Neisseria meningitidis. In fact, a recent study2 showed a potential increase in meningococcal disease when influenza and RSV activity is high.

Encapsulated, gram-negative diplococcus
Found in nasopharyngeal secretions, carrier rates 2-30% in normal populations
Age of incidence has 2 peaks: children < 2 years old, teens 15-19 years old
Young adults who live in shared housing, such as college dorms and military recruits

Clinical Presentation:
Early non-specific symptoms of URI, fever, malaise, myalgias
Meningitis: non-specific prodrome + headache, stiff neck (not found in younger children who often present atypically with irritability and/or vomiting)
Meningococcemia: above symptoms + hypotension + petechial rash (>60% of patients)

Early (!) antibiotics: 3rd generation cephalosporins (<3mo: cefotaxime; older infants, children, and teens: ceftriaxone); PCN G is antibiotic of choice for susceptible isolates
Early and aggressive management of shock

Tetravalent vaccine, MCV4 (Menactra, Menveo), available for serogroups A, C, Y and W-135 is given routinely at age 11-12 years old with an additional booster at 16-17 years old. MCV4 does not protect against serogroup B which accounts for 30% of infections.



1. Cross JT, Hannaman RA. Infectious Disease. MedStudy Pediatrics Board Review Core Curriculum: 5th edition. 2012; 5-11.
2. Jansen AG, Sanders EA, VAN DER Ende A, VAN Loon AM, Hoes AW, Hak E. Invasive pneumococcal and meningococcal disease: association with influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus activity?. Epidemiol Infect. Nov 2008;136(11):1448-54.
3. Javid MH. Meningococcemia. Available at Medscape Reference. Last updated Aug. 2. 2012.