Is a serious infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). It is usually caused by bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial is more serious than viral meningitis. Humans are the only known reservoir for Neisseria meningitidis (also known as the meningococcus). Five groups of bacteria (A, B, C, W, and Y) are responsible for nearly all serious meningococcus infection. The infection can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in 50% of cases if untreated.
The average incubation period is 4 days, but can range between 2 and 10 days. Symptoms includes high grade fever, headache, vomiting, blotchy rash, stiff neck, drowsiness, confusion, dislike of bright lights, cold hands and feet, pain on limbs, and fits. Occasionally, the meningococcus can cause invasive disease, including meningitis (inflammation of the meninges), septicaemia (blood poisoning) and pneumonia.
It is transmitted from person to person by inhaling respiratory secretions from the mouth and throat or by direct contact with respiratory secretions of infected person. It can be spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes, living in closed quarters such as dormitory with an infected person (carrier). Meningitis is usually caught from people who carry the meningococcal viruses or bacteria in their nose or throat but aren't ill themselves.
Meningococcal can cause invasive disease and can kill in hours. Overcrowded condition, healthcare workers, volunteers, those visiting friends and relatives and long stay travellers who have close contact with the local population are at increased risk.
During the 2014 epidemic season, 19 African countries implementing enhanced surveillance reported 11,908 suspected cases including 1,146 deaths. The extended meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east (26 countries), has the highest rates of the disease. Countries include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.
Proof (Certificate) of vaccination with the quadrivalent vaccine (A, C, W, Y) is a visa requirement for Hajj and Umra pilgrims and seasonal workers travelling to Saudi Arabia.
Capsular groups of B, C, W and Y were historically the most common in the UK. Meningococcal conjugate vaccines with Tetravalent A, C, Y and W conjugate vaccines have been licensed since 2005 for use in children and adults in Canada, the United States of America, and Europe.
They are inactivated, do not contain live organisms and cannot cause the diseases against which they protect.