Meningococcaldisease is caused by the bacterial infection, Neisseria meningitis. Meningitis is an inflammation of the linings of the brain and spinal cord caused by Neisseria. Symptoms can include sudden headache, stiff neck, fever, and neurological changes. Even if treated aggressively, the illness is still fatal for 10-15% of people who have the disease. It is spread by close contact and respiratory secretions amongst people who carry the infection. Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but people who are in close contact with each other have a much higher incident of occurrence. Moreover, there are endemic areas of meningitis outbreaks, including the "Meningitis Belt" which spans sub-Saharan Africa. Countries within this belt are Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan and Ethiopia. Small portions of the northern borders of Uganda and Kenya are also included in this belt.
Meningococcal infection has been extremely problematic in the past for visitors of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia; therefore vaccination is required for admittance to that country for those traveling to Mecca.
The CDC recommends vaccination against meningococcal disease to persons traveling to countries where meningitis is endemic, particularly, sub-Saharan Africa during the dry season, December to June. The most common serogroup of meningococcal disease that reigns in Africa is Serogroup A. The vaccination available in the United States is a quadrivalent polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccine, named MCV-4, which covers Serogroups A, C, Y and W-135. This vaccine is available for persons aged 2-55years. The MCV-4 vaccine provides immunity for up to five years after receiving the injection. For those people traveling to Mecca during the annual Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage, Saudi Arabian government requires proof of this vaccination.