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What is my risk of getting meningococcal meningitis?

Young woman with a headache
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Meningitis can kill – are you at risk?

you are caring for has meningitis, seek help now from a healthcare professional. Do not wait.

Meningococcal meningitis is caused by bacteria. It is a swelling of the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The infection can progress to septicemia (blood poisoning). It results in death in about 5-10% of cases. People who survive meningitis may end up with nerve damage.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

You may know about the meningitis rash, characteristic red spots that do not disappear when pressed with a glass. But this symptom often arises later. If you suspect meningitis, do not wait for the rash. Other symptoms include:

  • drowsiness and confusion
  • irritation in the presence of light
  • sudden fever
  • intense headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stiff neck.
How is meningitis spread?

The bacteria that causes meningitis is spread via coughs and sneezes and through respiratory secretions left on surfaces.

Am I at risk from meningitis?

Many Canadians are protected from meningitis because they are vaccinated against meningitis as part of the normal vaccination schedule. But if you have not been vaccinated you may be at risk of infection if you are exposed to the bacteria that cause meningitis.

Travelling in countries lying in the African meningococcal meningitis belt between December and June (the dry season) will increase your risk of exposure. Countries in the meningococcal meningitis belt include:

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Chad
  • Central African Republic
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sudan
  • South Sudan.

Your planned activities may increase your risk of contracting respiratory infections, too. Attending large gatherings such as weddings, festivals and funerals can put you at risk. And staying with friends or family or as a guest in someone’s house can also increase your risk of exposure to meningitis.

Should I get vaccinated against meningitis before I go to Saudi Arabia?

Pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj will need a certificate of vaccination against meningococcal meningitis otherwise they will be delayed when they enter Saudi Arabia. At your travel health appointment, the nurse can arrange vaccination and a certificate if you need this. You can see information about current vaccine requirements from The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health.

Do I need a meningitis shot?

Bring your vaccine records to your appointment and talk it over with the travel health nurse. You should also bring your itinerary and be ready to answer a few questions about your travel plans. Your appointment is completely confidential, so all your information is safe. The travel health nurse will use it to assess your risk of exposure and to give you advice that will protect your health. There are several different types of meningitis vaccine, and your travel health nurse will choose the one that is most appropriate for your situation and planned trip.

How can I avoid catching meningitis?

You should support the protection provided by the meningococcal meningitis vaccine by washing your hands frequently while travelling. You should also observe good coughing and sneezing etiquette and avoid crowded situations, particularly if you are unwell yourself.

Where can I get travel vaccinations in Edmonton?

If you need an appointment at a travel clinic in Edmonton, turn to Canadian Travel Clinics. It is quick and easy to book online.