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Meningitis vaccines for travel

There are different types of meningitis and vaccines to help protect against the different strains. Vaccination against meningitis will depend on the specific risk in destination countries and whether a person has been vaccinated before.

Meningitis C vaccine, or Men C, is already given as part of NHS childhood vaccinations to protect against meningococcal C meningitis and septicaemia, one of the most common types of meningitis in the UK. It doesn't protect against other strains of meningitis people may come across when travelling abroad.

A vaccine called Bexsero is also now available against meningococcal B meningitis, and has recently been included in the routine childhood vaccination programme.

Vaccines for travellers

Vaccines for travellers to protect against multiple strains of meningococcal meningitis A, C, W135 and Y are available.

Vaccination should be given 2-3 weeks before travelling.

Information will be given about possible side effects of vaccination, including pain around the injection site, headache, mild fever, fatigue or dizziness.

High-risk areas for meningitis

Meningitis vaccination is recommended by the NHS for travel to high-risk areas, including parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia.

There is an area of Africa known as the ‘meningitis belt’, where the disease is more common and there are frequent outbreaks and epidemics. The area is below the Sahara, stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, and involves 30 countries.

There is also a higher risk of getting meningitis during the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and when visiting northern India. Visitors arriving in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages require proof they’ve been vaccinated.

Dominant types of meningococcal disease can vary by country and region, and change over time.

The risk may also depend on the length of stay, whether travellers will be staying with locals or in hotels, or risks in rural or more crowded urban areas.

Travellers are advised to consult their GP or local travel clinic about the cost of the vaccine and for which countries it is needed.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 19, 2017

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