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Meningococcal Disease and the Meningitis Vaccine for Travelers

What Is Meningococcal Disease?

Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness that can lead to meningitis – an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord – and infections of the blood. Even when treated, meningococcal disease kills 10 to 15 percent of those infected. Of those who survive, 10 to 20 percent will be left with serious disabilities.

How is Meningococcal Disease Spread?

The bacteria that causes meningococcal disease is spread from person-to-person through close contact such as kissing, coughing, or sharing eating utensils.

Symptoms of Meningitis

When meningococcal disease develops into meningitis, the most common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Extreme fatigue

Meningitis Vaccine

There are multiple strains of bacteria that can cause meningococcal disease and meningitis – five of which are responsible for the majority of cases. Effective meningitis vaccines are available for each of these five strains.

Meningococcal vaccination against this aggressive and devastating disease is now routine for adolescents and is recommended for other individuals who may be at high-risk, including those traveling to parts of the world where meningococcal disease is common, including, but not limited to:

If your destination country is not listed, please talk to the travel medicine specialists at the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health for more information about recommended vaccines and disease prevention.