Meningococcal Disease in Africa

by Wayne Ghesquiere on December 2, 2011

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommends vaccination against meningococcal disease (commonly called meningitis) when travelling to areas experiencing outbreaks and for high risk travellers.  Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis.  This bacterium can causeserious and sometimes fatal diseases including meningitis (infection of the brain lining) and meningococcal septicemia (infection of the blood).  There are many different subtypes of the bacteria but five of the subtypes (A, B, C, Y and W135) are responsible for the majority of meningitis cases.   The sub-Saharan African meningitis belt extends across from Gambia and Senegal to Ethiopia and Western Eritrea. Outbreaks occur mainly during the dry season (December-June). The recommended immunizations and advice on health risks must be tailored to each individual’s particular health situation, as well as his/her travel itinerary. It is important to consult a doctor, nurse or health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before you travel.

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