What is meningitis?
There are several types of meningitis which can affect travellers, meningitis A, C, W, and Y and are caused by bacteria. As opposed to viral meningitis, bacterial meningitis is very dangerous. Causing an inflammation of the meningeal tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord, in particular Neisseria meningitidis bacteria which can cause severe brain damage.
Around 10% of meningitis patients can die of the infection, even with treatment.
Meningitis symptoms vary from person to person. The most typical symptom is a skin rash which is very frequent, but also absent in a few cases. Usually the infection consists of a severe headache, a high temperature and vomiting. Some suffer from a stiff neck, are sensitive to light and feel exhausted.
When to seek immediate medical attention?
Meningitis is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention, which is not always available whilst travelling. A meningitis ACWY vaccine protects effectively against type A, C, W, and Y. It does not provide protection against meningitis type B. Bacterial meningitis can be treated with an antibiotic. Early treatment is essential to prevent irreversible damage to the brain. You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms.
Fever, nausea, headache and feeling tired. You may also experience some skin irritation at the injection site. Some patients develop a small lump where the injection was given. This lump will resolve by itself within a few weeks.
If you experience any other side effects or if the symptoms do not resolve, you need to see a doctor. If you have a high fever over 38.5 lasting more than 24 hours you would also need to see a doctor and ask them to report this.
Other very common and common side effects:
Hardening at the injection site
Feeling generally unwell
The meningitis ACWY vaccine provides protection for at least 3-5 years. No boosters are currently required except for certificate purposes. Some countries, for example Saudi Arabia, require a meningitis ACWY certificate evidence prior to entering the country.
Vaccination with ONE of the following vaccines is acceptable:
Quadrivalent (ACWY) polysaccharide vaccine within the last 3 years.
Quadrivalent (ACWY) conjugate vaccine within the last 5 years.
Note: If the vaccine type is not indicated in the certificate, the certificate will be valid for 3 years.
Hajj and Umrah Vaccination Requirements
Individuals who are planning a trip for pilgrimage for Hajj/ Umrah or for seasonal work are required to submit a valid vaccination certificate with a Quadrivalent (ACWY) meningococcal vaccine administered no less than 10 days prior to arrival to Saudi Arabia.
Why was Meningitis ACWY135 made compulsory?
Numerous cases of the meningitis were reported amongst pilgrims caused by various strains of meningitis. To ensure that the pilgrimage is safe for everyone, the Saudi Arabian authorities have made it compulsory for visitor to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj and Umrah seasons to have the meningitis ACWY vaccination prior to entering the country.
Single dose vaccine - minimum of 3 weeks before departure.
Some countries, for example Saudi Arabia, require a meningitis ACWY certificate prior to entering the country. The vaccine is compulsory for the Hajj pilgrimage. It is especially recommended that students attending university for the first time receive a single dose of Meningitis ACWY.
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