Meningococcal disease is a term used to describe two illnesses. One is meningitis, which is inflammation of the lining around the brain. The other is septicaemia, or blood poisoning. Both are very serious as they can kill.
Anyone can get them, but babies and children under five are particularly at risk because their immune systems aren't developed.
Most people with meningococcal disease make a full recovery, if they are diagnosed quickly and given antibiotics. This makes it very important to recognise the early symptoms, which are similar to flu. You can find out how to recognise the first signs at the Meningitis Research Foundation, Meningitis Now and the NHS.
Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria that live in the throats of about 10 per cent of healthy people. It is often passed between people by coughing, sneezing and kissing. You can protect against it by making sure children and young people are properly vaccinated. Your doctor can do this as part of a child's routine vaccination programme. If your child isn't registered with a doctor, find your nearest GP surgery.