Meningococcal disease is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis.
Approximately 10-20% of the general UK population carry the bacteria at the back of their nose and throat. Carriers do not have symptoms but can develop the disease when the bacteria invade the bloodstream from the back of the nose and throat. Rarely it can progress to septicaemia (blood poisoning) or meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain).
There are 12 different types of N. meningitidis and out of these, 6 are responsible for the majority of invasive disease: A, B, C, W, X and Y.1
Meningococcal group B bacteria are responsible for more than 90% of menincococcal infection in children. MenB vaccine is recommended as part of the childhood vaccination programme for babies. 2
The following is a summary about the disease. For further details speak to your local pharmacist or GP.
Meningococcal infection is spread through tiny droplets when coughing or sneezing by infected individuals or individuals who carry the bacteria but are not ill themselves. The infection can also spread through kissing, sharing food/drink and contact through utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes.1
Meningococcal disease occurs worldwide. The highest rates of disease occur in the ‘meningitis belt’ of sub-Saharan Africa typically during the dry season. The full list can be found here.3
Typically, the incubation period for meningococcal disease is 2-7 days. Symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease that lead to meningitis and/or septicaemia can cause:
The symptoms can appear in any order and not everyone develops the more common signs and symptoms associated with meningococcal disease.
Presentation in children
Children and young people with the more specific symptoms and signs are more likely to have bacterial meningitis or meningococcal septicaemia and the symptoms and signs may become more severe over time.
Early features to watch for in children:
Classic features (develop later)
Some of the most common complications associated with meningitis B are:
If meningitis B is suspected then seek medical assistance urgently.
The main distinguishing feature is a non-blanching rash but it does not appear in some cases. Other symptoms include high fever and stiff neck. Refer to “What are the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease?” section for more details.
A full list of signs and symptoms can also be found here.5
Travellers who may be at higher risk include:
Travellers are advised to:
The MenB vaccine is recommended to babies as part of their part of their childhood vaccination programme at age:
The MenB vaccine is made from proteins found on the surface of the meningococcal bacteria. They stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to protect against future exposures to meningococcal bacteria.
The MenB vaccine is likely to cause fever in babies within 24 hours of the vaccination. It is important to give the baby liquid paracetamol after the vaccination to reduce risk of fever.
This information is taken from trusted third party websites, NaTHNaC (Travel Health Pro) and EMIS (Patient info) and use of all information has been licenced under the Open Government Licence http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/.
Although the materials are being used/replicated under the provisions of the Open Government Licence this in no way represents endorsement of Traveljab.co.uk by NaTHNaC, Emis, Public Health England, the NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care