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The germs that cause bacterial meningitis are very common and live naturally in the back of the nose and throat of about 15% of the population. They can be spread between people by coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing drinking bottles but they cannot live for more than a few seconds outside the body. Therefore they cannot be picked up from water supplies, swimming pools, or public places.
People of any age can carry the germs for days, weeks or months without becoming ill. In fact, being a carrier helps to boost natural immunity. Only on rare occasions do the bacteria overcome the body’s defences and cause meningitis.
The incubation period for most bacterial meningitis is between two and ten days.
Disclaimer - The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand promotes the prevention, control and awareness of meningitis. It is not a professional medical authority. The text on this website provides general information about meningitis and septicaemia, not medical advice. It is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of these diseases. Please consult your doctor to discuss the information or if you are concerned someone may be ill.
We need your help in reducing and preventing meningitis. Your support will assist the Foundation’s work in the fight against this disease.