Meningococcal meningitis

Meningococcal meningitis is a potentially serious bacterial infection if it’s not treated quickly. It is spread through coughs and sneezes.

Different strains of meningococcal bacteria cause different meningococcal infections. Groups B and C are the most common in the UK, and vaccination against group C meningitis is now part of the childhood vaccination programme. Groups A, Y and W135 are more common elsewhere in the world.

High-risk areas

High-risk areas for meningococcal meningitis include:

  • parts of Africa
  • Saudi Arabia

Vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis is recommended if you are travelling to a high-risk area and you will be:

  • staying for longer than one month
  • backpacking
  • living with locals in rural areas
  • attending the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages (religious journeys to Mecca, the centre of the Islamic world) in Saudi Arabia
  • doing seasonal work in the Hajj area of Saudi Arabia

Visitors arriving in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, or to undertake seasonal work in the Hajj area, require proof of vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis.

The vaccine

The conjugate ACYW135 meningococcal vaccination will protect you against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis. This should be given two to three weeks before you travel.

For adults and children over five years of age, a single dose provides protection for about five years. For children under five years of age when they were first vaccinated, the vaccine gives protection for two to three years.

For infants aged between two months and two years, the initial dose of the vaccine must be followed by a second dose three months later.

The meningitis vaccine is not suitable for babies younger than two months old.