Key Concepts

  • Meningococcal Meningitis is a severe, life-threatening bacteria infection
  • Vaccines offer up to 95% protection for A, C, Y, and W135 strains
  • Prompt treatment is required in the event of meningococcal disease
  • Risk of infection is worldwide, but is most prevalent in sub-Saharan African

Meningococcal Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord. The swelling associated with meningitis often triggers the "hallmark" symptoms of this condition, including headache, fever and a stiff neck.

Invasive meningococcal disease is a medical emergency, requiring early diagnosis, hospitalization, and effective antimicrobial treatment. At one time, the case-fatality ratio exceeded 50%, but early diagnosis and appropriate treatment have helped to lower the case-fatality to 5%-10% in developed countries. Up to 20% of those who survive have lifelong complications. The longer you or your child has the disease without treatment, the greater the risk of seizures and of permanent neurological damage.

Incubation Period

Meningococcal Meningitis is characterized by a short incubation period (2-10 days, often < 4 days), followed by sudden onset of symptoms. Transmission is by direct contact, including respiratory droplets from the nose and throat of infected persons. Of the 13 recognized serogroups (kinds of meningitis) groups A, B, C, Y and W135 most frequently cause disease.


Symptoms include:

  • Intense headache
  • High fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck (Not usually present in infants)
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Skin rash

At Risk

Although most traveler’s are at low risk, individuals journeying to endemic regions or the meningitis belt are at high risk for developing meningitis. Those travelling to crowded regions or participating in gathering, such as the Hajj, are also at high risk.


  • Get vaccinated, especially if you are travelling to a high risk region
  • Seek prompt treatment in the event of symptoms resembling meningitis


Antibiotic therapy is effective with prompt intervention.

For more information

Public Health Agency of Canada:

Health Canada:

World Health Organization:

About Us

Since 1936, International Medical Services (IMS) has strategically promoted safety and travel illness prevention. We have extensive experience sending short and long term expatriates to every continent and major travel destination (including Antarctica).

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