What is it?
Meningitis is an infection of the brain caused by a variety of bacteria or viruses, and rarely, fungi
Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial cause which has many different subtypes
There are vaccines for some of these subtypes
What are the symptoms of meningococcal meningitis?
The sudden onset of a stiff neck, headache and high fever
Other symptoms include sensitivity to light, confusion and vomiting
About 2\3 of people with meningococcal meningitis also develop a bruise-like rash on their bodies
Meningitis generally occurs within 14 days after exposure to meningococcal bacteria and can be aggressive and rapid in onset which is why it is often fatal
How can I contract it?
By being around other people that carry the disease and probably don’t have symptoms
When people sneeze, cough, kiss or share eating and drinking utensils, they can spread meningitis bacteria in droplets of saliva or secretions from their nose or throat
Most people that spread meningitis bacteria are not sick
Where can I contract meningitis?
Meningococcal meningitis is found worldwide
There are 13 different types of meningococcal meningitis, but types A, B, C, Y and W135 are responsible for most epidemics
Epidemics of type A occur every year in Africa, usually in the African meningitis belt during the December-June dry season but the risk is year round
Other countries, including China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia have also reported epidemics
Subgroups B and C cause most outbreaks in Canada although they are relatively rare
What vaccines are available?
There are several vaccines available for meningococcal meningitis in Canada, covering the C strain, ACYW strains and the B strain
The ACYW vaccine is commonly used for travellers to some parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia where these strains are more common
In BC, meningitis C vaccine is given in childhood and now ACYW in grade school since 2017
How many shots will I need of ACYW? (Menactra)
A single dose of Men ACWY-135 vaccine ideally 2 weeks before travel
Children under the age of 2 need 2 doses
Will I need a booster?
A booster may be recommended after several years depending on your age, health, vaccination status and continued risk level for contracting meningitis
How can I prevent meningitis?
Avoid crowded areas like public markets
Avoid close physical contact with locals who may not be vaccinated
Avoid sharing cups, water bottles, cigarettes, food and utensils
Wash or sanitize your hands if you come into contact with an object that could be contaminated with nasal secretions
What is the treatment for meningococcal meningitis?
Meningitis is extremely serious, often fatal despite treatment and requires immediate hospitalization and antibiotics
If left untreated, it has a mortality rate approaching 100 percent
Of those who recover, up to 15% will be left with serious after effects including hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, gangrene, amputations and kidney damage or failure
Bacterial meningitis can also cause a serious blood infection called septicemia