As reported last month, several cases of meningitis have been reported in the Sub-Sahara so far this year.  In this area where the high season for meningitis runs from December to June, there has been a big push to get those at risk for infection vaccinated.  The vaccines being offered effectively protect 90% of those who receive it from the A and B subtypes of meningitis that are responsible for the epidemics in Africa.

However, there are other forms of meningitis, and it is important that children, travelers and those in developing countries are protected from the many different strains caused by bacterial infections.  In developed nations the Meningitis C vaccine  is given in childhood, but this still leaves children and adults vulnerable to other strains known as  type A (common in Africa), type W and type Y. The ACWY vaccine, a conjugate vaccine, was developed to provide the necessary protection across all of these strains.  Results of these tests show a greater level of protection, a reduction in the length of time an individual can carry the infection and provides longer lasting immunity.

The current guidelines for the new conjugate vaccine recommend administering the vaccine to those age 11 and up, but it is so good that some authorities (the JCVI) in the UK are advising off-license use in those under 11 years as well.

In summary: if you are traveling and/or want to protect your children, ask for the new conjugate Meningitis ACWY vaccine over the traditional one.

Author: Charlie Easmon, MBBS
Charlie Easmon, MBBS is a General Practitioner whose practice has a strong focus on Travel Medicine.  He is a Regional Physician Advisor for HTH Worldwide and the Medical Director for The Number One Health Group on Harley Street in London and ALC Global Health Insurance.  He is a member of the Royal College of Physicians, UK and has a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the University of Liverpool.   Dr. Easmon is an Honorary Lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 
Photo by: Teseum

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