Meningitis is an infection that causes inflamation of the membranes and fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment, while bacterial meningitis (meningococcal) can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, coma or even death.
It can occur in epidemics, especially where large crowds are gathered, as it is acquired through direct contact or inhalation of bacteria in droplets coughed or sneezed into the air.
Sporadic cases of meningitis are found worldwide. In temperate zones, most cases occur in the winter months. Localized outbreaks occur in enclosed crowded spaces (e.g. dormitories, military barracks). In sub-Saharan Africa, in a zone stretching across the continent from Senegal to Ethiopia (known as the African £meningitis belt£), large outbreaks and epidemics take place during the dry season (November£June).
The risk to travellers is generally low. However, the risk is considerable if travellers are in crowded conditions or taking part in large population movements such as pilgrimages eg. the Haj to Mecca. Localized outbreaks occasionally occur among travellers (usually young adults) in camps or dormitories. Backpackers who use crowded hostels will be at greater risk during an outbreak.
There are two vaccines used to protect travellers. The meningitis A + C vaccine and the meningitis ACWY vaccine. The latter is required for pilgrims and seasonal workers visiting Saudi Arabia.Travelers should also try to avoid overcrowded places and close contact with the local population.
Meningococcal£meningitis£is a potentially serious bacterial infection if it£s not treated quickly.
There are different strains of meningococcal bacteria that cause different meningococcal infections. Groups B and C are the most common in the UK, and vaccination against group C meningitis is now part of the£childhood vaccination programme. Groups A, Y, and W135 are more common elsewhere in the world.
parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia. Visitors arriving in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, or to undertake seasonal work in the Hajj area, require proof of vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis.
Vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis is recommended if you are travelling to a high risk area and you will be:
Children should receive these vaccines as part of their childhood vaccination programme. Speak to your GP if you are not sure£whether you or your child's vaccinations are up to date.
The£conjugate ACYW135£meningococcal vaccination£will protect you against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis. This should be given 2-3 weeks before you travel. For Patients over 2 years a single dose is required. Patients under 2 years need to consult with a GP. Novartis have confirmed that thier version of the vaccine offers protection for a minimum of 21 Months post vaccine.
The Meningitis ACWY vaccine will be available on the NHS and through the school's routine vaccine schedule from August/September 2015. The vaccine will still be available to those who want it privately outside of the vaccine schedule and catch up programme.
For more information on the timeline for the implementation of the MenACWY vaccine in schools and primary care, please click here.
After having the ACWY vaccine to protect against groups A, C, W135 and Y meningitis, about 10% of people experience soreness and redness at the injection site. This usually lasts around 24-48 hours. Mild fever can also occur (this is usually more common in young children than in adults). Severe reactions are very rare. However, details of possible side effects and special precautions should be discussed during the appointment.
Please be aware that for full immunity some vaccination courses, with more than one vaccine required, may take up to a month or longer. Please, also be aware that many vaccinations will not become fully effective until weeks after the course completion. It is strongly advised that you leave plenty of time to complete the course before your trip. Intervals between different vaccines or doses are recommended, which allows time for antibodies to be produced and any reaction to the vaccine to subside.
The above information should only be used as a guide and is not a substitute for medical advice. All vaccinations are only carried out following a Travel Risk Assessment and Consultation. The brand of vaccine we supply may also vary depending on the current supply status of a particular vaccine.
In order for us to assess the most appropriate vaccines please complete our Travel Risk Assessment.
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