International travel and health

Africa - Meningococcal disease

The highest burden of meningitis (meningococcal disease) occurs in sub-Saharan Africa, which is known as the "Meningitis Belt", an area that stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east (see map in Chapter 5 of International Travel and Health). In the "meningitis belt" epidemics typically start during the dry season (January to March) and end at the onset of the rainy season (May to June).
As of February 2009, countries from the "meningitis belt" have been reporting meningitis cases, some at epidemic level. Although the risk for travellers is generally low, it is higher if travellers are in crowded conditions and/or in close contact with a healthy person possibly carrying the infectious agent (asymptomatic carrier). WHO recommends that individuals planning to travel to sub-Saharan African countries, from Senegal to Ethiopia are vaccinated with a vaccine protecting against the four serogroups responsible for the epidemic disease (tetravalent vaccine ACYW135 - see chapter 6 of the International Travel and Health).