Meningitis spreads fast and it can be fatal. If you’re travelling to a region where it’s common or have been recommended for vaccination for some other reason, here’s the information you need.
Meningitis is found worldwide. The most risky areas are sub-Saharan Africa, known as the meningitis belt, where epidemics are common. The belt runs from Senegal in West Africa to Ethiopia in the east. If you’re going there, get vaccinated first.
Meningitis C is included in Britain’s national childhood immunisation schedule. Youngsters often have a meningitis vaccination before they go to college, where crowded and often unhygienic student lifestyles take their toll and the disease is spread via respiratory and throat infections. And young adults entering the forces often have the vaccination for the same reason.
Travellers visiting Saudi Arabia and areas of Sub Saharan Africa, India and Asia should consider having this vaccination regardless of whether they have had a childhood Meningitis C jab.
Meningitis is a serious bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the brain and spine. It’s fatal in 5-12% of cases but without treatment, fatality rates can be as high as 50%. The incubation period is 3-4 days.
People can get meningitis by breathing the air or saliva from an infected person when they sneeze, cough or kiss. The disease spreads quickly in crowds and mass gatherings. Travellers at higher risk include those taking long or short term trips to risky areas, for example health workers, volunteers, those visiting family in or living in places where the disease is a problem.
Meningitis can cause a sudden fever with an acute headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, sensitivity to light, pale and blotchy skin, severe muscle pain, confusion and irritability, even convulsions and seizures leading to a coma. Common meningitis symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Tiredness and irritability
- Generally feeling unwell
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sore throat
If you have a mild case of viral meningitis, you might only get a few flu-like symptoms before making a full recovery. If you catch a more serious case you will experience nastier symptoms, namely:
- An even worse headache
- A rash of little red or purple spots
- Big, dark bruises that don’t whiten or disappear when you press them
- Light sensitivity
- A stiff neck
- Confusion and drowsiness
Particularly bad cases can lead to reduced consciousness, coma and swollen nerves behind the eyes. If you suspect you’ve caught meningitis, treat it like a medical emergency and call 999 immediately. Fast treatment saves lives.
Meningitis is usually spread via contagious infections. Common bacteria or viruses that cause the disease are spread via coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing cutlery, toothbrushes and even cigarettes. If you live with someone who has the disease, you’re at risk of catching it yourself.
How to stay safe? Here are some common sense guidelines.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly, especially before eating and after using the loo. This is very important if you’re spending time in a crowded place or will be getting close to animals
- Never share drinks, foods, straws, cutlery, lip balm, lipsticks or toothbrushes with anyone else
- A strong immune system offers good protection in itself. Maintain your immune system in top condition by sleeping, eating and exercising well
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and steer clear of people with coughs and colds
- If you’re pregnant cook all meat to at least 74C and avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses and milk
We use a drug called Conjugate Vaccine ACWY, called either Menveo or Nimenirx, which provides longer protection than any other.
Vaccine name – Nimenrix or Menveo
Property – An inactivated conjugate vaccine given by injection into the arm’s deltoid muscle
Dose – 0.5ml powder reconstituted in liquid
Course – One dose
Booster – Babies under a year old need two doses a month apart. Older children and adults only need one dose
Side effects – Local pain, redness, inflammation or flu like symptoms. Rarely, the symptoms of meningitis itself
Special instructions – Vaccination required 10 days before travel to Saudi Arabia for Haj and Mecca
Special Certificate requirements: Yes, for pilgrims entering Saudi Arabia
Note – we no longer stock the polysaccharide vaccine ACWY, since the one we use performs much better.
Current research hints that the protection slowly declines and may not last more than 5 years.
We provide meningitis immunisation to people in and around London, convenient and easy to reach for anyone living in or visiting the capital.
Our London Travel Clinics
All 3 of our centrally located travel clinics are convenient for people living and working in London. Liverpool Street, London Bridge and High St Kensington. We are open early morning, lunchtime, evening and weekends and provide all of the vaccinations and medications that you need.