Infection The bacteria (meningococci)infects from person to person through the air.
Vaccination Travellers to countries with a high risk should be vaccinated for stays of more than 4 weeks duration, and all travellers during out-breaks.
There are at least 5 main types of meningococci bacteria.
Most infection in the tropics are due to type A and C, with type B being more common in temperate areas. W135 and Y are more rare.
The vaccine contains polysaccharides (sugar) and does not give sufficient protection after a single injection in children under 2 years of age.
Vaccination protects for 3 years after 1 injection.
A meningococcal vaccine against type C has been developed for small children, and this vaccine is used in the UK childhood vaccination programme.
HajjThere was an outbreak of W135 among pilgrims to Mecca in 2000, who had only received vaccination against type A and C. Vaccination with a vaccine covering A, C, W135 and Y are now mandatory for pilgrims to Mecca.
Symptoms The symptoms start suddenly with high fever, strong headache, nausea and later reduced consciousness. A rash with small needle head type spots is typical and may develop very rapidly.
Diagnosis A spinal tap with microscopy and culture and culture from the blood.
Treatment Treatment with intravenous antibiotics in high doses. Rapid treatment is essential.