Meningococcal Meningitis Vaccination
Meningococcal meningitis is an acute disease caused by Neisseria meningitides bacteria.
It is characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense headache, vomiting and neck stiffness. A skin rash appears in the later stages of the disease and signifies severe illness. Although the disease is treatable with antibiotics, sufferers may become very sick or even die within hours of onset, if not diagnosed promptly and correctly. The disease is transmitted from person-to-person by respiratory droplets i.e. coughing, sneezing, kissing.
Meningitis in Australia
In Australia and other developed nations meningitis mainly occurs in the form of serogroups B & C. Children are immunised to serogroup C as part of the National Immunisation Program. However, this doesn't protect against serogroup A meningococcus which occurs frequently in parts of the world.
- Meningococcal Meningitis occurs in all countries.
- Sub-Saharan Africa: epidemics of serogroup A meningococcal disease occur frequently during the dry season (December through June) particularly in the savannah areas extending from Mali eastward to Ethiopia, a region known as the ‘meningitis belt’.
- Epidemics due to serogroups A and/or C have also occurred in areas further south in Africa (Tanzania, Burundi, Angola) as well as in parts of Asia, in particular northern India, Nepal and Mongolia, again during the dry season (November to May).
Vaccination is recommended for:
- travel to the 'meningitis belt' during the dry season
- travel to areas with an active epidemic
- prolonged travel when extensive contact with the local population in endemic areas is expected.
- Meningococcal meningitis vaccination is mandatory for all travellers over 12 months of age making the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.
About the vaccine
Polysaccharide ACYW135 vaccine (Menomune/Mencevax)
Conjugate ACYW135 vaccine (Menactra/Menveo)
Mencevax/Menomune: A single dose provides three years protection. Not recommended for children under the age of 2 years.
Menactra: 2-55 years of age/Menveo: 11 years and over. Protection for 5+ years. (The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends both vaccines suitable for ages 9 months and above.)
|Level of protection||
Approximately 90% effective against serotypes A, C, Y, W135. The conjugate vaccine diminishes carriage of bacteria in respiratory tract.
|Possible side effects||
Usually infrequent and mild:
As with all vaccines, there is a small risk of allergic reaction.