Common Diseases

Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness that is caused by the type of meningococcus bacteria. The bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions but are are not as contagious as things like the common cold or the flu. This disease is more likely to affect you children and young adults aged 16 to 25.

The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure. The symptoms are similar to meningitis, including sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, cold hands and feet, cold chills, vomiting, increased light sensitivity, severe aches and pains in muscles, joints, chest and abdomen, rapid breathing, diarrhea, confusion and in later stages of a bloodstream infection a dark purple rash.  Quick medical attention is extremely important if meningococcal disease is suspected. Meningococcal meningitis is very serious and can be fatal. In fatal cases, deaths can occur in as little as a few hours. In non-fatal cases, permanent disabilities can include hearing loss, need for amputation and brain damage.

Meningococcal vaccines protect against most types of meningococcal disease, although they do not prevent all cases.  They should be considered by travellers visiting countries in which the disease is common. Hyperendemic regions include the meningitis belt of Africa during the dry season (December–June). Advisories for travelers to other countries are issued when epidemics of meningococcal disease which are vaccine-preventable are recognised. Note that proof of receipt of quadrivalent vaccination against meningococcal disease is required for people traveling to Mecca during the annual Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. Further travellers who were vaccinated previously and are living in or returning to Africa's meningitis belt may need to be revaccinated.