Meningococcal Meningitis

What is Meningococcal Meningitis ?

Meningococcal Meningitis is an infection of the meninges by the meningococcal bacteria. The bacteria are passed on from person to person by sneezing, coughing and kissing. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache and stiff neck. Drowsiness, vomiting, fear of bright lights, or a rash may occur. The disease can cause brain damage or even death.

What is the risk of acquiring the disease for travellers ?

In general, the risk of acquiring meningococcal infection while travelling is low. However, in sub-Saharan Africa extending from Mali to Ethiopia , particularly in the savanna during the dry season (December to June), the risk of disease occurrence is higher, and there is additional risk for those visitors who travel "rough" such as backpackers, and those who need to live or work with local people.

How can you prevent it ?

Meningococcal infection is transmitted through droplets. The risk can be minimised by:

  • Wash hands frequently, and observe good personal and environmental hygiene;
  • Avoid crowded places;
  • Avoid close contact with patients having fever or severe headache;
  • Cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing; hold the spit with tissue paper and discard it into a bin with a lid, and immediately wash hands.

In addition, effective vaccination against the disease is available on the market. For details on their indications, please see Meningococcal meningitis vaccination page.

How is it treated ?

Meningococcal Meningitis is a serious illness. Suspects should be treated immediately with suitable antibiotics. Close contacts would need to be placed under surveillance for early signs of disease and may be given preventive medications.




Last revision date: 10 October 2012