Meningococcal disease is extremely serious. These are the cases that you hear about where a college student is healthy and walking around campus one day and is dead twenty-four hours later. The fatality rate for this disease is 10 percent overall and up to 25 percent in adolescents. Even in milder cases where patients recover, they still might be left deaf or with other disabilities, or they might need to have parts of their body amputated from gangrene.
There are antibiotics that can treat a meningococcal infection. In fact, the majority of time, simple penicillin is sufficient to kill the bacteria. However, the infection often progresses so rapidly and overwhelms so many of the body organs that antibiotics alone are not sufficient. Other treatments, such as intubation and ventilation to support the lungs and fluids and strong cardiac medications to maintain the blood pressure, might be necessary as well. Even in the best circumstances with immediate diagnosis and excellent care, people can still die from this infection.