Meningococcal meningitis is a severe and potentially fatal infection of the blood and mininges (membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. There is 6 major serogroups of meningococcal: A, B, C, W, X, and Y.
Meningococcal is spread from person to person through close contact with an infected persons’s saliva or respiratory secretions (e.g. by coughing, sneezing, or from objects freshly soiled with infected respiratory secretions).
Many healthy people can carry the meningococcal bacteria in their nose and throat without developing disease. Invasive meningococcal disease develops when the bacteria invades the body and can be fatal. Symptoms can include sudden onset of headache, fever, rash, stiffness of the neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, or altered mental status. If left untreated without antibiotics more then 70% of people will die from the disease.
How can I prevent Meningococcal Meningitis?
Vaccination is the best way to prevent invasive meningococcal disease. There are vaccines to protect against 5 serogroups of meningococcal meningitis. The meningitis C vaccine is routinely given to infants in Canada. There are also quadrivalent meningitis vaccines that protects against 4 serogroups of meningitis A,C,Y,W-135 (Menactra, Nimenrix, or Menveo). There is also a vaccine to prevent meningitis B (Bexsero).
Who should receive the Meningococcal Meningitis vaccines?
The quadrivalent meningitis vaccine is provided free to adolescents in grade 9. It is also provided free to individuals at high risk for invasive meningococcal disease including those with no spleen or an immune system disorder, those who have received a transplant, or those who have been in close contact with a person with meningococcal A,C,Y,W-135 disease.
The quadrivalent vaccine is recommended but not provided free to:
- Travelers to the “meningitis belt” in Africa, or other countries experiencing outbreaks
- Pilgrims entering Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah (the vaccine is required by the government of Saudi Arabia)
- Adolescents born prior to 2002 attending university who did not receive the vaccine in grade 9 (the peak years for meningitis disease after infancy is between 15-24 years of age)
- Research workers
- Military personnel
The meningitis B vaccine is provided free to individuals who are close contacts of serogroup B invasive meningococcal disease. It is also recommended but not provided free to:
- High risk individuals 2 months of age and older including those with no spleen or an immune system disorder
- Research workers
- Military personnel
- Travelers to an area with an outbreak known to be caused by serogroup B
- Adolescents and university students up to 24 years of age
Meningitis vaccine schedules:
Quadrivalent (serogroups A,C,Y,W-135) vaccines (Menveo, Menactra, Nimenrix):
- 2-11 months (Menveo only): 2 doses 8 weeks apart with a 3rd dose given between 12-23 months of age and at least 8 weeks after the 2nd dose.
- 12-23 months (Menveo only): 2 doses 8 weeks apart
- 2 years of age and older: single dose
Protection lasts for 5 years if vaccinated at 7 years of age or older. If vaccinated at 6 years of age or younger protection lasts for 3 years.
Meningococcal B vaccine (Bexsero):
- Infants 2-5 months of age: 3 doses given 4 weeks apart with a 4th dose after 12 months of age and at least 8 weeks after dose 3.
- Infants 6-11 months of age: 2 doses 8 weeks apart with a 3rd dose after 12 months of age and at least 8 weeks after the 2nd dose.
- Children 12 months-10 years of age: 2 doses 8 weeks apart
- Individuals 11 years of age and older: 2 doses 4 weeks apart
The duration of protection from the Bexsero vaccine has not yet been established.
Call us at 604-251-1975 to arrange an appointment or to receive further information about the meningitis vaccines.
Visit our Kitsilano clinic for a pre-travel consultation and vaccinations to protect your health.
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