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Meningococcal infections


Meningococcus is a bacterium found in a person's respiratory tract. Several serogroups or types of meningococcus circulate in Quebec, including serogroups B, C, W and Y.

Meningococcus can cause serious illnesses such as:

  • Meningitis: infection of the membranes surrounding the brain
  • Meningococcemia: infection of the blood

Meningococcal infections are more common in late winter and early spring.


Symptoms of meningococcal infection develop 1 to 10 days after a person has been infected with the bacteria. They vary according to the site of infection.

In Quebec, 5% to 10% of healthy people are carriers of meningococcus, but have no symptoms. They can, however, transmit the bacteria without knowing it.

Meningococcal infection can cause meningitis or meningococcemia. The main symptoms of these diseases are:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Deterioration of general condition
  • Pinpoint redness or bleeding, or blue patches on the skin.

Meningococcal infection can lead to serious complications.

When to consult

If you have any questions about your health, or if you experience several of these symptoms, contact Info-Santé 811 or see your doctor immediately.


Meningococcal infection can be treated with antibiotics. The earlier the infection is treated, the more effective it is.


Complications of meningococcal infection vary. In the case of meningitis and septicemia, possible complications include:

  • Arthritis
  • Deafness
  • Heart problems, such as myocarditis or pericarditis
  • Blood circulation problems, such as abnormal coagulation or gangrene
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Amputation of the hands or feet
  • Death


Meningococcus is transmitted through the nose or throat secretions of infected people, whether they are ill or not. Transmission occurs from one person to another through contact with secretions from the nose or throat of an infected person, for example, when kissing and exchanging saliva.

Protection and prevention


Vaccination is the best way to protect against meningococcal infections and their complications.

There are several vaccines against meningococcal infections. The Quebec Immunization Program (PQI) provides for a dose of meningococcal serogroup C vaccine at 18 months of age, followed by a dose of meningococcal serogroups A, C, W and Y vaccine in the 3rd year of secondary school.

General notice

Students in grades 4 and 5 of high school in 2023-2024 were offered the serogroup C meningococcal vaccine when they were in grade 3. A quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine booster against serogroups A, C, W and Y is recommended for these students and for young people who are not in these classes, but who are old enough to be in them. This booster will be offered as of spring 2024 at school and according to the regional organization of vaccination services.

Other meningococcal vaccines may be recommended in specific situations or depending on the individual's state of health.

Since the introduction of free meningococcal C vaccination in Canada, the number of cases of serious serogroup C meningococcal infections has fallen by almost 97%.

How to get vaccinated

Anyone under the age of 18 can be vaccinated against meningococcal disease free of charge under the Québec Immunization Program. Visit the Québec Immunization Program page to find out how to get vaccinated.

People at risk

Since the immunization program starts at 18 months of age, children under 18 months are most at risk of getting a meningococcal infection.

Other people who have specific genetic risk factors, such as people who do not have a spleen or who have a dysfunctional spleen, are also at increased risk of getting a meningococcal infection. These people should consult a healthcare professional to find out which meningococcal vaccines are recommended for them.

Special features

In Quebec, meningococcal infections are notifiable diseases (MADO).

Laboratory staff and healthcare professionals who detect a case of meningococcal infection must inform public health authorities.

Last update: March 18, 2024


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