Meningitis (Meningococcal Meningitis) is a serious, potentially fatal, bacterial infection that causes swelling of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, and blood poisoning. It can result in permanent disability and death, particularly if blood poisoning occurs.
Countries at risk
Meningitis occurs worldwide, but particularly in the Meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa.
Risk for Travellers
Risk for travellers is highest towards the end of the dry season when the disease spreads rapidly, resulting in large outbreaks within very short periods. Meningitis is spread through coughing, sneezing and close contact with an infected person.
Between 5% - 11% of adults and up to 25% of adolescents carry the Meningococcal bacteria, causing no signs or symptoms of the disease. They can spread it unknowingly to others, resulting in disease for that person.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms can appear suddenly and include severe headache, fever, cold hands and feet, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, stiffness of the neck, sensitivity to bright light, sleepiness, confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness.
Babies, children and adolescents are particularly at risk. Symptoms may be hard to identify in babies and young children, who may exhibit the following signs: refusing feeds, unusual crying or moaning, irritability, listlessness, unresponsiveness, jerky movements or becoming stiff or floppy and very rapid breathing.
Blood poisoning caused by Meningitis can cause a red, purplish rash that does not fade when pressure is applied.
Meningitis is a medical emergency requiring urgent hospital treatment, as blood poisoning can develop rapidly. Treatment includes intravenous antibiotics. It is always preferable to take measures to prevent the disease rather than treat it after the fact.
Travellers to areas of risk may be recommended a single dose of Menveo to vaccinate against Meningitis ACWY. All travellers who are vaccinated against Meningitis ACWY will also receive a certificate. All Hajj and Umrah pilgrims are required to show certification of vaccination on arrival in Saudi Arabia.