Meningitis is caused by viruses or bacteria. For the purposes of this explanation we will only discuss the type of meningitis that is caused by a meningococcal bacteria.

How can you catch meningitis?

Many people actually carry the bacteria temporarily in their nose or throat without even being ill. The bacteria comes free into the air when the person coughs or sneezes and can then be inhaled by other people. This is a particular hazard in packed, closed-off areas and in the event of intensive contact with the local population of a country in which meningitis is endemic. Infection is especially possible in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Only a small percentage of infected people actually go on develop meningitis. Young children and people with severely weakened immune system are particularly susceptible.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

The first symptoms of a meningococcal infection are:

  • having a cold
  • listlessness
  • fever
  • stiff neck
  • vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • local signs internal bleeding that cannot be pushed aside

The time that elapses between infection and the manifestation of the first symptoms is short, namely between two and ten days.

How can you avoid catching meningitis?

There are effective vaccines againt meningococcal meningitis. The vaccination that’s given provides protection against four types of meningococcal (ACWY). After vaccination the protection lasts for three years.

Children and adults travelling to meningitis risk areas, and who have already been vaccinated in the Netherlands with the meningococcal C vaccine, should also get vaccinated with the meningococcal ACWY vaccine, even if the C vaccine is still valid.

This vaccination is recommended for certain countries under certain circumstances. For more information contact KLM Health Services. People going to Mecca (Hadj and Umrah) and seasonal workers are mandatorily obliged to show a valid vaccination certificate.