Table of Contents

What is Meningitis Disease?

Infection causes dangerous swelling of the meninges tissue within the brain and spinal cord leading to serious illness.  Death and long-term disability occurs in 30-40% of bacterial meningitis cases. For this reason, many international travelers and young adults living in the US choose to receive the meningitis vaccine.  

Both viruses and bacteria can both lead to meningitis, also known as meningococcal disease. The vaccine available prevents bacterial meningitis.  Currently, no vaccine to directly protect against viral meningitis exists.

How Does the Disease Spread?

Transmission occurs person-to-person from tiny saliva droplets.  Coughing, kissing, or even sharing a drink between two people can spread the bacteria.  Any close personal contact where saliva is exchanged poses a risk if one person is infected.  Not surprisingly, mass gatherings, crowded spaces, or even parties are known to cause outbreaks.  

Meningococcal disease can cause serious illness and death. Routine vaccination is the best protection for people in higher risk groups
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requires the four strain ACYW meningitis vaccine on arrival for Hajj.

Who Needs a Meningitis Vaccine for International Travel?

In the US, adolescent and college age young adults have a greater chance of infection.  However, for international travel, people of any age are at risk if traveling to certain regions of Africa known as the “Meningitis Belt.” Approximately 24 countries in Africa can experience meningitis outbreaks including Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya.  Further, visiting these countries during the months of December through June poses a higher risk of exposure.  

Additionally, individuals attending Hajj or Umrah are required to show proof of the meningitis vaccine.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) instituted this vaccination rule to protect pilgrims due to previous outbreaks during Hajj.

Both travelers to Africa and pilgrims to Saudi Arabia need protection with the four strain meningitis vaccine.  This vaccination is also commonly referred to as the quadrivalent ACWY meningococcal vaccine. 

How Often Do I Need the Meningitis Vaccination?

For most adults, a single dose provides enough protection for travel abroad.  Additional doses are given every 3-5 years for return visits depending on the destination.

Is The Four Strain (ACYW) Meningitis Vaccine Different from the Meningitis B Vaccine?

Yes, the meningitis B vaccination may be recommended for adolescents and college age young adults living in the United States.  Currently, the meningitis B vaccine is not recommended for international travelers nor is it required for travelers to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah. 

The meningitis vaccine is recommended for travel to many countries in Africa and a booster may be needed every 3-5 years for return trips

Where Can I Find the Meningitis Vaccine Near Me?

Destination Health Travel Clinic offers the meningococcal vaccination and appointments are available by booking online or calling the office near you.

Other Recommended Travel Vaccines

Traveling to Africa? In addition to the meningitis vaccine you may need to arm yourself with the Yellow Fever vaccine, Typhoid Fever vaccine, and Polio vaccine