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Meningitis is a global disease, but the likelihood of contracting meningococcal disease varies from country to country.1 People who travel to countries with high disease occurrence or to places that have been affected by a recent outbreak are at increased risk, and mass gatherings, such as pilgrimages, are also a risk factor.1

Worldwide, the highest rates of disease occur in the ‘meningitis belt’ of sub-Saharan Africa.1 There have also been outbreaks of meningococcal disease associated with Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage.1 Vaccination is recommended for people travelling to countries where they are at greater risk.2,3

Most cases of meningococcal meningitis are caused by one of six types: A, B, C, W, X and Y.5,6 Different strains are more prevalent in different regions.

ACWYB

There are licensed vaccines which can help protect against five of the six meningococcal bacteria types that cause most meningococcal meningitis - A, C, W, Y and B.6

No single vaccine protects against all types of meningitis.6 Speak to your pharmacist, doctor or nurse about which vaccines you need

Even when meningococcal meningitis is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started promptly, the consequences can be severe. Meningococcal meningitis can cause death in as little as 24 hours from the first symptoms.5

A devastating disease caused by bacteria that can be carried and spread from person to person

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Intimate kissing

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Smoking

Mass gathering icon

Attending mass gatherings

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Living in dormitories or crowded accommodation

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Sharing eating or drinking utensils

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Coughing and sneezing

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Being in close contact with the local population

The bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis can be spread by people who carry the bacteria in their nose and throat, but do not experience symptoms.5,8

In addition to coughing and sneezing, common social behaviours and environmental factors such as attending mass gatherings and being in close contact with the local population in a high risk area may promote the spread of bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis.9 People exposed to these factors may be more likely to carry the bacteria without having any symptoms, and are able to pass the bacteria on to others.1,4,10

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African Map

Vaccination is recommended for
people travelling to countries where
they are at greater risk2,3

Worldwide, the highest rates of meningococcal disease occur in the ‘meningitis belt’ of sub-Saharan Africa.2,3

The ‘meningitis belt’ is a region in sub-Saharan Africa with a particularly high number of cases of meningitis. The rate of meningococcal disease varies from country to country.2,3

The NHS recommends that vaccination is considered for some travellers to the following Sub-Saharan African countries:2,3

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Central African
  • Republic
  • Chad
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Democratic
  • Republic of the
  • Congo
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Tanzania
  • Burundi
  • Rwanda

If you’re travelling to sub-Saharan Africa and fall into one of the groups below, it is recommended that you consider vaccination.2,3

People travelling at increased risk:

  • Long stay travellers who have close contact with the local population
  • Aid or healthcare workers
  • Those visiting friends and relatives
  • Those who live or travel ‘rough’, such as backpackers

People with weakened immunity:

  • Individuals with no spleen or a poorly functioning spleen
  • Individuals with certain immune deficiencies e.g. certain complement deficiencies

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Pilgrim Mecca Image

Vaccination is recommended for
people travelling to countries
where they are at greater risk3,4

The bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis can be carried by people who have no symptoms of the infection.

8 in 10 People

In the UK, this is about 1 in 10 people. However, carriage rates up to 8 in 10 have been reported among Hajj pilgrims.3

As lots of people are in close contact during the pilgrimage, meningococcal bacteria can be more easily spread from person to person.4

All pilgrims travelling to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Hajj or Umrah are required to show proof of vaccination with meningococcal ACWY vaccine in order to obtain an entry visa3,4

References

1. Memish ZA, et al. Invasive meningococcal disease and travel. J Infect Public Health. 2010;3(4):143–51. doi: 10.1016/j.jiph.2010.09.008.

2. TravelHealthPro. Meningococcal disease factsheet. https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/factsheet/42/meningococcal-disease. Last Accessed September 2019

3. MIMS. Travel destinations requiring meningitis vaccination updated. https://www.mims.co.uk/travel-destinations-requiring-meningitis-vaccination-updated/infections-and-infestations/article/1291843. Last Accessed September 2019

4. World Health Organization. Meningococcal meningitis factsheet. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/meningococcal-meningitis Last Accessed September 2019

5. World Health Organization. Meningococcal vaccines: WHO position paper, November 2011. Weekly Epidemiological Report. 2011;47,(86):521–40.

6. National Health Service. Meningitis: vaccination. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/vaccination/ Last Accessed September 2019

7. National Health Service. Routine childhood immunisations. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/817309/Routine_Childhood_Immunisation_Schedule_Autumn_2019.pdf. Last Accessed September 2019

8. National Health Service. Meningitis: causes. www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/causes/ Last Accessed September 2019

9. Tully J, et al. Risk and protective factors for meningococcal disease in adolescents: matched cohort study. BMJ. 2006;332(7539):445–50. doi: 10.1136/bmj.38725.728472.BE.

10. MacLennan J, et al. Social behavior and meningococcal carriage in British teenagers. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006;12(6):950–7.

PP-VAC-GBR-1278 September 2019

Take Action

There are licensed vaccines which can help protect against five of the six meningococcal bacteria types that cause most meningococcal meningitis - A, C, W, Y and B.6 If you need your vaccination for travel purposes, you can help protect yourself against meningococcal meningitis by having a private vaccination. Follow this link to find out about vaccines to help to protect you against some types of meningococcal disease.7

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