Meningococcal

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis, a serious infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, that can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in 50% of cases if left untreated.1 The meningococcal bacterium is found worldwide, with outbreaks mainly occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, which is known as the meningitis belt, and stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east.1  However, infrequent cases and outbreaks also occur in New Zealand and other countries.2

Meningococcal bacteria pass from one person to another through secretions from the nose or throat, for example by coughing or sneezing on someone, but it usually needs to be quite close or prolonged contact.

On average about 15% of people carry the meningococcal bacteria in their throat and nose, without being unwell — they are known as carriers and they can spread the disease.1

New Zealand health authorities recommend that travellers to high-risk areas be adequately protected against meningococcal disease.2  Each time you plan to travel, show your doctor or travel medicine specialist your travel itinerary at least 6−8 weeks before you leave,6 to check if you need to take any precautionary measures against meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal FAQs

  • Meningitis - What is it?

    Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis, a serious infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, that can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in 50% of cases if left untreated.1 The meningococcal bacterium is found worldwide, with outbreaks mainly occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, which is known as the meningitis belt, and stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east.1  However, infrequent cases and outbreaks also occur in New Zealand and other countries.2

  • Meningitis - How is it spread?

    Meningococcal bacteria pass from one person to another through secretions from the nose or throat, for example by coughing or sneezing on someone, but it usually needs to be quite close or prolonged contact. It is more likely to spread among people living in the same house or who are in very close contact with each other (including intimate kissing).3  Localised outbreaks can occur in closed-in spaces where crowds gather, such as in sport stadiums, schools and universities.4

    On average about 15% of people carry the meningococcal bacteria in their throat and nose, without being unwell — they are known as carriers and they can spread the disease.1

  • Meningitis - Who is at risk?

    People travelling to high-risk countries-particularly, some of the sub-Saharan African countries stretching from Senegal in the West to Ethiopia in the East (the meningitis belt) — may be at risk of meningococcal disease, especially in crowded situations and during the dry season.1  Pilgrims to Mecca are also at high risk which is why the Saudi Government requires all Pilgrims to be vaccinated against A,C,W135,Y strains.4  The risk of catching meningococcal disease while travelling is generally low,4 and children and young adults tend to be at higher risk of infection.3

  • Meningitis - How is it prevented?

    New Zealand health authorities recommend that travellers to high-risk areas be adequately protected against meningococcal disease.2  Each time you plan to travel, show your doctor or travel medicine specialist your travel itinerary at least 6−8 weeks before you leave,6 to check if you need to take any precautionary measures against meningococcal disease.

    There are several meningococcal vaccines that are available in New Zealand. One vaccination that is available is Mencevax ACW135Y.7 This vaccine contains four of the five major strains (serogroups) of bacteria that cause meningitis.5  Mencevax is given as a single dose and will provide protection against these strains of meningitis for 3 years in children over 5 years of age and adults.7  No vaccines are 100% effective5 so you will need to be careful when you are in large crowds for long periods of time.

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