What is meningococcal ACWY & how do you catch it?
Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and can result in meningitis, an infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). It's most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults, but can affect anyone and can be serious if not diagnosed and treated quickly. It can also cause septicaemia (severe blood poisoning which can be fatal) and permanent brain or nerve damage. The bacteria are spread from person to person by close contact over a prolonged period of time. This can include kissing, coughing, sneezing, or sharing utensils with a person carrying the bacteria.
What is meningococcal B & how do you catch it?
The bacteria of meningococcal disease is divided into five main groups (A, B, C, W and Y), with meningococcal B bacteria being the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK. Because of this, routine meningococcal B vaccines are offered to babies aged two months old, with a second dose offered at four months and a booster dose at 12 months.
Vaccines for meningococcal ACWY are available to prevent groups of meningococcal disease that occur outside the UK.
The MenACWY vaccine is also available to prevent groups of meningococcal disease that occur outside the UK.
If you're planning to travel to specific high risk countries, in particular countries in sub-Saharan Africa or for a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, vaccination against the various types of the meningococcus should be considered before you travel. You should be vaccinated at least two weeks before you travel and you will need to prove you have been vaccinated if travelling for events like Hajj.
Signs & symptoms
If travelling to a high risk area, be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis as they can develop very suddenly. They can include the following:
• High temperature (fever) of 38°C (100.4F) or above
• Blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it (this won't always develop)
• Stiff neck
• Sensitivity to bright lights
• Drowsiness or unresponsiveness
Also remember that not all symptoms may appear, and they can also appear in any order.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has meningitis, it's a medical emergency. You should see a doctor as soon as possible.
The best means of prevention is via administration of the meningitis ACWY vaccine.
The meningitis ACWY vaccination is given by a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four different types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease: A, C, W and Y. It’s offered to teenagers as part of routine school vaccination programmes, and to university students under the age of 25 who missed the routine childhood vaccination.
How long does the meningitis ACWY vaccination last?
A booster dose is recommended after five years for those travellers who are at risk of the disease again. For Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, evidence of vaccination is required every five years for a visa application.