on 21 February 2021

Meningococcal disease is a rare, but potentially devastating infection in travelers caused by one of the meningitides bacteria; it is characterized 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 the condition is not diagnosed promptly and correctly. The disease is transmitted from person-to-person by respiratory droplets i.e. coughing, sneezing, kissing. Extensive travels in crowded conditions and prolonged contact with the local population in crowded places are risk factors.

The risk to travelers is generally low. Vaccination is recommended for travel to the 'Meningitis Belt' during the dry season, for travel to areas with an active epidemic, or for prolonged travel when extensive contact with the local population in endemic areas is expected.

The disease is most common in these countries during the dry season (December through June). Travelers who spend a lot of time with local populations, especially during outbreaks, have the highest risk of getting sick. Vaccinated travelers who continue to be at increased risk should receive booster doses.
Saudi Arabia requires participants in the annual Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage show proof of meningococcal vaccination. No other countries require meningococcal vaccination prior to travel.

A protective antibody response occurs within 10 days of vaccination. In schoolchildren and adults, one dose of these polysaccharide vaccines appears to provide protection for at least 3 years, but in children under 4 years of age the levels of specific antibodies decline rapidly after 2–3 years.



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