SafeGard Travel Medicine physicians generally only recommend the meningitis vaccine for travelers to the African meningitis belt who will be at risk or for those who are going to Mecca for the Hajj (where it is required). The travel pharmacies we work with provide the vaccine.
While meningitis can be caused by a virus, travelers are vaccinated against bacterial meningitis which is generally more severe. Meningitis is a disease which causes inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is contagious and is spread through close contact, as in persons who live together, share utensils or kiss. Common symptoms include sudden fever, headache and a stiff neck. Other symptoms vary by age and disease progression; but because it can be life threatening within hours, it is extremely important to seek immediate medical attention when suspected.
Vaccination with the appropriate vaccine may be recommended if you will be going to an area of risk. A booster is recommended if it has been more than 5 years since the last shot. The shot should be given 7-10 days prior to exposure. Good hygiene and avoidance of persons who appear ill are also recommended.
Travelers at highest risk are those traveling to any of the 26 countries in the 'meningitis belt' of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly during the dry season (December through June, peaking in March and April). Spending time with local populations of these countries, especially during outbreaks, or participating in the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia are indications for getting the vaccine.