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Meningococcal Meningitis

Meningococcal Meningitis illustration

What is meningococcal meningitis?

Spread from person to person, this bacteria causes a serious infection in the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Untreated, half of infected people die, while those who survive may end up with brain damage or hearing loss.

Meningococcal Meningitis illustration

Risk areas for Meningococcal Meningitis

Map of risk areas for Meningococcal Meningitis
  • Key fact

    Up to 10% of us carry the bacteria in our throats and it does not harm us.1 Getting meningitis is an unpredictable effect of carrying the bacteria.

  • How do you get meningococcal meningitis?

    The bacteria can be spread through close contact with someone who is carrying the bacteria, such as through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing eating and drinking utensils.1 Mass gatherings, such as religious pilgrimages, can increase the risk of transmission of the disease.1

  • Which countries are affected by meningococcal meningitis?

    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).1,2 However, outbreaks can also occur outside of these high risk areas.1

  • What are the symptoms of meningococcal meningitis?

    Symptoms may take up to 10 days to develop, including a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting.1 In more severe cases, a rash may develop which is a sign of blood poisoning.

  • How serious is meningococcal meningitis

    Meningitis caused by bacteria can be fatal if it’s not treated quickly. If left untreated, half of the people who get meningitis can die. Severe cases result in brain damage and hearing loss in 10-20% of survivors.1

  • Can I prevent getting meningococcal meningitis?

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

    • Visit your nearest convenient pharmacy or specialist travel health clinic for a risk assessment before your trip
    • Avoid close personal contact (such as kissing), or living in dormitories or other shared environments with people who have symptoms of respiratory illness
    • Avoid sharing personal items such as eating and drinking utensils3

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  1. World Health Organization. Factsheet. Meningococcal meningitis. February 2018. Available online: (Last accessed May 2021)
  2. World Health Organization. Meningococcal meningitis, countries or areas at high risk, 2017. Available online: (Last accessed May 2021)
  3. Mayo Clinic. Conditions and Diseases. Meningitis. October 2020. Available online: (Last accessed May 2021)

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