Do I need a meningitis vaccine for travel?

Meningitis is a potentially fatal infection – but there is a meningitis vaccine for travel, and you can take steps to avoid getting sick on your holiday or business trip.

If you suspect meningitis, get medical help immediately no matter where you are in the world. Do not wait for the rash to appear. Do not wait until you return to the UK. Read more about meningitis symptoms on NHS Choices.

The bacteria that cause the potentially fatal meningococcal meningitis lurk harmlessly in the noses of 25% of healthy teenagers and 5–11% of healthy adults.

A sneeze or a cough that sprays out respiratory droplets will transfer the bacteria. If the bacteria infect the blood (septicaemia) or the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) it can be fatal. These infections are fatal in 5–10% of cases even if treated. Patients who survive meningitis may suffer brain or nerve damage.

Where is meningitis a danger?

Meningococcal disease is prevalent worldwide, but there is a particularly high risk in the desert areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. This ‘meningitis belt’ includes all or parts of:

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Chad
  • Central African Republic
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sudan and South Sudan

The risk is particularly high in the dry season, which runs from December to June. If your plans include this region of Africa during the dry season, your travel health advisor will recommend the meningitis vaccine for travel.

What activities increase the risk of contracting meningococcal disease?

Meningitis outbreaks occur during gatherings such as weddings, funerals, festivals and markets. Travellers visiting friends or relatives for a homestay are at greater risk, too. So is anyone on a longer trip. Healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease.

What steps will reduce my risk of getting meningitis?

It is difficult to completely avoid exposure to the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease, so ask your travel health adviser about getting vaccinated against meningitis.

Reduce your risk of respiratory infections by keeping your hands clean. Good coughing and sneezing etiquette will protect others from any bacteria you are carrying. Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.

Do I need a meningitis shot if I am travelling for Hajj or Umrah?

Pilgrims to Saudi Arabia need an up-to-date certificate proving that they have received a quadrivalent vaccine against meningococcal disease to get a visa.

Ask a nurse adviser at NX Travel Health Clinics when you come for your travel health appointment about vaccine requirements for Hajj and Umrah.

Information about vaccines against meningitis

Many people who live in the UK will already be protected against meningitis under the UK vaccination schedule with Bexero (which protects against meningococcal group B) and the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (against serogroups A, C, W and Y).

If you are unsure about your vaccination status, check with your GP.

The vaccines recommended for travellers at risk from meningitis are Menvo or Nimenrix, both of which are conjugate ACWY.

Where can I get vaccinated against meningitis for travel?

Look no further than NX Travel Health Clinics if you need travel vaccinations.