From 2003, children in Australia receive meningococcus C vaccine as part of their routine childhood immunisation, and this has severely cut the number of infections since then.
However there are 13 strains of meningococcus, with the most common being A, B, C, W, and Y. In Australia, B now predominates, and fortunately a vaccine is available to combat this which is given to young children, and those in high school.
The risk is highest in people living in close quarters (military personnel, hostels, student accommodation) and people travelling to endemic areas such as the ‘meningitis belt’ of sub-Saharan Africa, or on large congregations such as the Hajj, the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup.
Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. It can lead to meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and infections of the blood. Meningococcal disease often occurs without warning – even among people who are otherwise healthy.
Even when it is treated, meningococcal disease kills 10 to 15 infected people out of 100. And of those who survive, about 10 to 20 out of every 100 will suffer disabilities such as hearing loss, brain damage, kidney damage, amputations, nervous system problems, or severe scars from skin grafts.
Meningococcal ACWY vaccines can help prevent meningococcal disease caused by serogroups A, C, W, and Y. A different meningococcal vaccine is available to help protect against serogroup B.
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