Disease Description: Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection characterized by sudden onset with fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, and, frequently, a rash with pink macules that develops small hemorrhages. Meningococcal disease is potentially fatal and should always be viewed as a medical emergency.
Risk to Travelers: Travelers to sub-Saharan Africa may be at risk for meningococcal disease. Travelers to the meningitis belt (Map) during the dry season should be advised to receive meningococcal vaccine, especially if they will have prolonged contact with local populations. Prompted by a serogroup A meningococcal disease outbreak associated with the 1987 Hajj, Saudi Arabia requires that Hajj and Umrah visitors have a certificate of vaccination with a tetravalent (A,C,Y,W-135) meningococcal vaccine before entering.
Prevention - Vaccine: Two vaccines are available for prevention of meningococcal disease, a tetravalent meningococcal polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccine (MCV4), and Tetravalent meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4). Both provide protection against infection with Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A, C, Y, and W-135. Neither is protective against infection with N. meningitidis serogroup B.
Vaccine Adverse Effects: Adverse reactions to both MCV4 and MPSV4 are usually mild, consisting principally of localized redness that lasts 1-2 days.
Vaccine Contraindications: Vaccination with MCV4 and MPSV4 is contraindicated among persons known to have a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine, including diphtheria toxoid (for MCV4), or to dry natural rubber latex.
Vaccine Booster Recommendations: Persons aged 7 to 55 years and who remain at an increased risk for meningococcal disease should receive an additional dose of MCV4 five years after their previous dose and every five years thereafter, if at continued risk.
Information adapted from CDC Health Information for International Travel (the Yellow Book), http://www.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2010/table-of-contents.htm