Meningococcal Meningitis

Meningococcal Meningitis

Lethal bacteria responsible for causing hearing loss, brain damage or death. Travellers in Africa can catch it through close contact with infected people or by sharing their personal possessions.

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Key Fact

Ten to twenty percent of us have meningococcal bacteria in our throats without becoming ill.1 So meningitis is a rare and unpredictable effect of carrying the bacteria.


  • How do people catch these disease?

    Close contact with someone who is carrying meningococcus bacteria.1,2 The bacteria can be spread through coughing and sneezing, kissing or sharing eating and drinking utensils. Many people have meningococcus bacteria in their nose and throat without being ill.

  • Which countries are affected?

    This kind of meningitis can occur in any country. But there are some areas, such as central Africa, where the risk is particularly high (see map).3

  • What are the symptoms?

    Rash, stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting.1

  • How serious is the disease?

    Meningitis caused by bacteria can be fatal if it’s not treated quickly. Severe cases result in brain damage and hearing loss in 10-20% of survivors.1

  • Can I reduce the chances of catching the disease?

    You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:

    • Visit your nearest convenient specialist travel health clinic for a risk assessment before your trip4
    • Avoid close personal contact (such as kissing) or living in dormatories or other shared environments with people who have symptoms of respiratory illness1
    • Avoid sharing personal items such as eating and drinking utensils1
  1. World Health Organization. Factsheet. Meningococcal meningitis. February 2018. Available online: (Last accessed May 2018)
  2. Zentrum für Reisemedizin. Meningokokken-Meningitis (Meningitis epidemica,  eitrige  Gehirnhautentzündung). Available online: (Last accessed May 2018)
  3. World Health Organization. Meningococcal meningitis, countries or areas at high risk, 2014. Available online: (Last accessed May 2018)

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