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Even with appropriate treatment, meningococcal disease can result in death in 5 to 10% of people.

Meningococcal - What is it?

Meningococcal disease is a contagious infection caused by meningococcus bacteria. There are 13 known types (serogroups) of this bacteria, but only 5 (types A, B, C, W135 & Y) commonly cause disease worldwide.

Meningococcal disease can cause meningitis (inflammation around the brain) and septicaemia (infection of the blood) or a combination of both.

Although meningococcal disease is not common, it is a very serious disease. Even with treatment, the overall risk of death is high. Furthermore, 10 to 30% of children and adolescents who survive, will end up with a permanent disability or deformity.

Meningococcal - Who is at risk?

The risk of catching meningococcal disease while travelling is generally low. However, certain conditions, particularly in high-risk destinations, may increase the risk of meningococcal infection, including:

  • prolonged contact with the local population during an outbreak
  • crowded situations (e.g. pilgrimages, camps, and dormitories)
  • travel during the dry season

There is an area in sub-Saharan Africa with a high degree of meningococcal disease which is known as the "meningitis belt".

Other people may be at risk of meningococcal disease. Please discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.

Meningococcal - How is it spread?

Meningococcal bacteria live naturally in the back of the nose and throat in about 10% of people, without causing illness. These people are known as carriers and can spread the disease.

The disease is spread by regular and close contact with respiratory (mucous or saliva) droplets from an infected person. The risk of infection is increased by prolonged, regular close contact such as intimate kissing or living in a household.

Meningococcal - What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of meningococcal disease can occur between 1 and 10 days (commonly around 3 to 4 days) after infection.

Symptoms may vary and can include sudden onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, confusion, muscle aches, joint pain, cold hands, thirst, nausea, vomiting, and a dark purple rash which does not disappear with gentle pressure on the skin.

 As meningococcal infection is very serious, quick diagnosis and emergency treatment is very important.

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following a meningococcal infection. Please speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about meningococcal infection.

Meningococcal - Vaccination

Routine vaccination against meningococcal type A, C, W135 and Y is not recommended, however it is recommended for the following:

  • travellers over 9 months of age to countries where there is a high risk of meningococcal disease
  • pilgrims who attend the Hajj or Umrah require a valid certificate of vaccination
  • close contacts in cases of disease, and/or outbreak situations

Meningococcal C vaccination is recommended and provided free for children as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP). It is usually given at 12 months of age.

Meningococcal C vaccination is also recommended for close household contacts of someone infected with meningococcal type C disease.

Vaccines against Meningococcal B are becoming available in several countries around the world.

Other individuals may also be at risk of meningococcal disease, and vaccination may be recommended. Please discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.

Meningococcal - Treatment

As death due to meningococcal infection can occur in a matter of hours, quick diagnosis and emergency treatment is very important. Those who are suspected of having meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics by injection and referred to hospital. Close contacts may also receive antibiotics, and possibly vaccination.

It is important to plan ahead and see your doctor at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss vaccination and travel health.


Some side effects may be experienced following vaccination. Please discuss any side effects or concerns with your healthcare professional.




AUS/VAC/0036/15. Date of approval: April 2015.