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Meningococcal Meningitis

Meningococcal Meningitis illustration

What is meningococcal meningitis?

Spread from person to person, these bacteria cause a serious infection in the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Untreated, it can be fatal, 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. Getting meningitis is an unpredictable effect of carrying the bacteria.1

  • 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. Mass gatherings, such as religious pilgrimages, can increase the risk of transmission of the disease.1,3

  • Which countries are affected by meningococcal meningitis?

    Meningitis can occur in any country but there are some areas, such as central Africa, where the risk is particularly high (see map). However, outbreaks can also occur outside of these high risk areas.2,3

  • What are the symptoms of meningococcal meningitis?

    Common symptoms include a stiff neck, fever, confusion, headaches, nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases, other symptoms may develop, including a rash which is a sign of blood poisoning.3

  • How serious is meningococcal meningitis

    Meningitis caused by bacteria can be fatal if it’s not treated quickly. Severe cases may lead to long lasting complications in around 20% of survivors, including hearing loss, seizures, limb weakness and difficulties with vision, memory and communication.3

  • 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 meningitis3
    • Avoid sharing personal items such as eating and drinking utensils4

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal Disease. Causes and How It Spreads. February 2022. Available online: (May 2023)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2024. Section 5 Travel-Associated Infections & Diseases. Meningococcal Disease. May 2023. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  3. World Health Organization. Factsheets. Meningitis. April 2023. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  4. Mayo Clinic. Conditions and Diseases. Meningitis. January 2023. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)

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