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 Facts around Meningococcal Meningitis

Up to ten percent of us have meningococcal bacteria in our throats without becoming ill, during an epidemic, it can even be up to 25 per cent.2 So meningitis is a rare and unpredictable effect of carrying the bacteria.


  • How do people catch this disease?

    Close contact with someone who is carrying meningococcus bacteria.2,3
    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).1

  • What are the symptoms?

    Rash, stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting.2

  • 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.1,2

  • Can I reduce the chances of catching the disease?

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

    • Visit a travel health clinic to assess the risks of the planned trip and get advice about available vaccinations and further precautions.
      Click here to find your nearest travel health clinic and make an appointment:
    • Avoid close personal contact (such as kissing) or living in dormatories or other shared environments with people who have symptoms of respiratory illness2
    • Avoid sharing personal items such as eating and drinking utensils2
  1. World Health Organization. Meningococcal meningitis, countries or areas at high risk, 2014. Available online (Last accessed September 2018)
  2. World Health Organization. Factsheet. Meningococcal meningitis. February 2018.. Available online: (Last accessed September2020)
  3. Impfung gegen Meningokokken. Available online: (Last accessed September 2020)

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