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Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection of the tissues lining the brain and spinal cord.

Outbreaks of the Meningococcal disease occur frequently during the dry season across sub-saharan Africa. Many strains of bacteria can cause this disease. For travellers, there is an effective vaccine against five strains of Meningococcal disease, these are the strains that cause most outbreaks in developing countries.


How is Meningococcal Disease spread?

Meningococcal disease can spread very easily through an infected person’s cough or direct contact with their respiratory secretions (saliva, snot etc). It can live in the nose and throat of healthy humans without causing any illness and can spread from one person to another. Because of the way it spreads, it usually occurs in scattered outbreaks. Outbreaks have been linked to the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where large numbers of people gather.


What are the symptoms of Meningococcal Disease?

Babies and young children may become irritable with just a fever and rash. Older children and adults may have a combination of:

  • Flu-like illness
  • Fevers and sweats
  • Severe headache
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff and painful neck
  • Rash
  • Severe sensitivity to bright light
  • Drowsiness

If not treated early, coma and death can occur


Who is at risk?

Pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia are at risk due to overcrowding, high humidity and dense air pollution. Following several outbreaks of Meningitis associate with the Hajj, the Saudi Arabian government now requires ALL pilgrims to have the Meningococcal disease vaccination.

Vaccination is also recommended for travellers to epidemic areas, especially children under 5 years old.



How to avoid Meningococcal Disease

There is an effective preventable vaccine available that covers four strains of the bacteria that causes Meningitis in travellers.


Further information about Meningococcal Disease

Please note that the recommendations given are general guidelines as to what may be required for a trip to these countries. However, they really do depend on many factors of your travel itinerary and medical history. All travellers are strongly advised to make an appointment to see a WORLDWISE Travel Doctor for up to date advice (including a vaccination plan and anti-malaria recommendations) tailored specifically to your upcoming trip.

Remember, our Travel Health Specialists are travellers too and have probably been to the region that you are going to. They appreciate the importance of enjoying a problem-free trip and of staying healthy abroad.

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