Meningitis affects more than 2.8 million people globally every year. Understanding the condition is a key step to avoiding it, so here is everything you need to know


There’s no denying the severity of meningitis. Across all age groups, the disease is still the world’s 6th largest infectious killer, resulting in nearly 320,000 deaths in 2016 alone. In fact, collectively and meningitis and neonatal sepsis are the second biggest infectious killers of children under 5 globally, and the condition leaves 1 in 5 sufferers with a permanent impairment such as brain injury.

No one wants to fall victim to meningitis, but in order to successfully avoid the condition, it’s important to first understand it. If you’re planning on travelling further afield in the coming months, particularly with young children, here’s everything you need to know about the condition.


What is meningitis?

Meningitis is a very serious infection, damaging the protective membranes that surround the spinal cord and brain – known as the meninges. The infection can affect anyone, but is most common in babies and young children, as well as teenagers and young adults.

Without treatment, meningitis can lead to life-threatening blood poisoning known as septicaemia. It can also result in permanent damage to the nerves and brain.


What are the symptoms of meningitis?

Like many serious infections, symptoms of meningitis can appear suddenly and develop rapidly. They often include:

  • Sickness
  • Headaches
  • A fever and high temperature of 38 degrees centigrade or above
  • Stiffness, particularly in the neck
  • Increased sensitivity to bright lights
  • Seizures and fits
  • Drowsiness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • A blotchy rash may also occur

These signs can appear in any order, and it may be that not all of them occur. You should seek medical advice as soon as you feel concerned that you or your child may have meningitis.


How does meningitis spread?

Meningitis can be contracted in either viral or bacterial form. Often it is spread through sneezing, coughing, kissing and sharing utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes. Often, the disease is caught from people who carry the bacteria in their nose or throat but do not show signs of illness themselves. It can also be caught from someone with meningitis.

Certain areas have a higher risk factor when it comes to meningitis, so it’s important to pay attention if you are planning on travelling further afield. These parts of the world include Africa and Saudi Arabia.


Outlook and treatment

Viral meningitis can often get better on its own, without leaving long term damage. The same is often true of those suffering with bacterial meningitis who are treated quickly. However, if treatment is not administered then long term issues can occur, including hearing or vision loss, memory loss, recurrent seizures, mobility problems and even loss of limbs. Around one in ten cases of bacterial meningitis are fatal.

This shows just how necessary effective treatment is, as bacterial meningitis usually needs to be treated in hospital for at least a week. Common treatments include antibiotics administered into a vein, fluids given into a vein and oxygen through a face mask. While viral medication often gets better on its own within 7-10 days, it’s important to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Many people find that painkillers and anti-sickness medication can also help.


Avoid the risk of meningitis with a vaccination from Express Travel Clinic

Vaccinations offer significant protection against many of the most common causes of meningitis, making them a vital precaution for anyone travelling to higher risk areas. Meningitis vaccinations are available from Express Travel Clinic, and should be given two to three weeks before travel. For adults and children over five, this vaccination provides protection for around 5 years, and provides 2-3 years protection for children under five.

For more information on the meningitis vaccination from Express Travel Clinic, click here. Alternatively, call our team today on 0208 993 58 89.