Meningococcal meningitis is a serious bacterial infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be fatal within 24 hours1. Four groups of meningococcal bacteria (known as B, C, W and Y) cause over 90% of meningococcal infections in England2.
It can be hard even for doctors to recognise the early symptoms of meningitis; quite often it can look like the flu3, while the symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all.
You should immediately seek medical advice if you are concerned that you or your child may have meningitis
Fortunately cases of meningitis in the UK are rare, but anyone can get it. Meningitis can be very serious if not treated quickly.
It can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (septicaemia) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves4 and it can be deadly within twenty four hours1.
Even if you survive meningitis or other forms of Invasive Meningococcal Disease, you can be left with long-term medical disabilities4.
Meningitis can affect anyone, but it is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.
The bacteria that cause meningitis can spread through common adolescent and young adult behaviours like kissing, sharing a drink or food, or even just hanging out in crowded areas.
If you travel to countries where meningococcal meningitis is more common you could be exposed to the bacteria.
At its peak, up to one in five adolescents and young adults can carry the bacteria that leads to meningococcal meningitis, but you can’t tell who because it can be carried in the throat without causing symptoms.
One in twenty who develop meningococcal disease die.
Death rates are higher for teenagers and young adults.*
Common social behaviours and environmental factors can promote the spread of the bacteria that causes meningococcal meningitis:
Although infants and young children (younger than 5 years of age) can get meningococcal meningitis most often, in many countries there is a second peak of the disease at 15-24 years of age. Adolescents and young adults are also more likely, without showing symptoms, to carry the bacteria that causes meningitis.
Headache, sore throat, thirst, general aches, fever
Decreased appetite, nausea/vomiting, leg pain, miserable/irritability
Drowsy, breathing difficulty, diarrhoea, neck stiffness, cold hands & feet
Sensivity to light, abnormal skin colour, rash, confusion/delerium, unconsciousness, seizures
Invasive meningococcal disease progresses rapidly. Even with medical treatment consequences can be severe.
You can reduce the likelihood of contracting meningococcal disease by being aware of the risks and limiting your exposure to the common routes of infection.
You can also be more proactive by being vaccinated.
Vaccines are available to help protect against the most common groups (ACWY and B) of meningococcal bacteria, but there is no single vaccine that helps to protect against all five groups that cause the majority of meningococcal disease in England9.
There is no single vaccine that protects against all types of meningococcal bacteria – at least two vaccines are needed. These include one vaccine covering A, C, W and Y groups, and one vaccine covering the B group9.
In September 2015, Meningitis B vaccinations were introduced to the routine immunisation schedule of babies and young children. However, teenagers and young adults will not have had access to them routinely on the NHS.
You can help to protect yourself through a simple course of Meningitis B vaccinations at your local Alphega Pharmacy. You can choose between having two (at 0 and 6 months) or three (at 0, 1 and 5 months) vaccinations.
Our specially trained pharmacists will assess you for suitability for the vaccine by asking a short series of questions. If suitable, they will then explain the process, possible side effects** and finally administer the vaccine into your upper arm if you are happy to go ahead.
They will then arrange your next appointment for you to receive your second vaccine.
If you would like to know more or make an appointment for a vaccination, contact your local Alphega Pharmacy offering this service. Please call ahead to book your first appointment.
Please note there will be a charge for this service, contact your nearest Alphega Pharmacy for more information.
In most cases, meningitis B vaccinations do not cause any significant side effects although there are some which are very common: