Up to 10% of us carry the bacteria in our throats and it does not harm us. Getting meningitis is an unpredictable effect of carrying the bacteria.1
Risk areas for Meningococcal Meningitis
The bacteria can be spread through close contact with someone who is carrying the bacteria, such as through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing eating and drinking utensils. Mass gatherings, such as religious pilgrimages, can increase the risk of transmission of the disease.1,3
Meningitis can occur in any country but there are some areas, such as central Africa, where the risk is particularly high (see map). However, outbreaks can also occur outside of these high risk areas.2,3
Common symptoms include a stiff neck, fever, confusion, headaches, nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases, other symptoms may develop, including a rash which is a sign of blood poisoning.3
Meningitis caused by bacteria can be fatal if it’s not treated quickly. Severe cases may lead to long lasting complications in around 20% of survivors, including hearing loss, seizures, limb weakness and difficulties with vision, memory and communication.3
You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:
- Visit your nearest convenient pharmacy or specialist travel health clinic for a risk assessment before your trip
- Avoid close personal contact (such as kissing), or living in dormitories or other shared environments with people who have symptoms of meningitis3
- Avoid sharing personal items such as eating and drinking utensils4
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal Disease. Causes and How It Spreads. February 2022. Available online: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/causes-transmission.html (May 2023)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2024. Section 5 Travel-Associated Infections & Diseases. Meningococcal Disease. May 2023. Available online: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2024/infections-diseases/meningococcal-disease (Last accessed May 2023)
- World Health Organization. Factsheets. Meningitis. April 2023. Available online: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/meningitis (Last accessed May 2023)
- Mayo Clinic. Conditions and Diseases. Meningitis. January 2023. Available online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meningitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350508 (Last accessed May 2023)
UK-BOTB-2100015 (v2.0) May 2023