This leaflet is about protecting against the bacterium (germ) called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as the meningococcus. Infection with this bacterium can cause meningitis and septicaemia (serious blood infection).
What is the meningococcus?The meningococcus is a bacterium which can cause serious illness such as meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning). There are different groups (types) of meningococcus. Groups B and C are the most common in the UK. In 1998, about 4 in 10 cases of meningococcal infection were caused by Group C.
Infection with the meningococcus can affect anyone, but those most at risk are:
A vaccine to protect against the Group C meningococcus was launched in 1999. This vaccine protects against Group C only, and not against Group A or B meningococcus. The vaccine has been well tested, and is known to be effective and safe. It is thought to give lifelong immunity, so a booster dose later in life is not needed.Who should be immunised?
Babies are immunised against Group C meningococcus in the routine immunisation programme. Three doses (injections), one month apart, are needed for full protection. These are normally given at ages two, three, and four months. Each dose is usually given at the same time as the routine DTP-Hib and polio immunisations.
Most people have no side-effects. Sometimes a mild fever develops for a short time. Some babies become irritable for a short time after the injection. Slight swelling and redness at the injection site may occur. Headache and muscle aches for a short time are reported by some older children.
None of the above side-effects are serious, and they soon settle. You can give paracetamol mixture or ibuprofen to children if necessary to ease pain and fever following immunisation. Serious reactions are rare.Who should not be immunised?
Yes. This vaccine will greatly reduce the number of cases of meningitis and septicaemia. These diseases will become even less common in the UK.
However, other groups of meningococcus, and other bacteria can still cause meningitis. Get medical help immediately if you suspect that your child, or someone you know, has meningitis or septicaemia. The earlier the treatment of meningitis or septicaemia, the better the chance of recovery and preventing complications or death. Another leaflet in this series describes the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.
Information on immunisation from the NHS aimed at the general public - www.immunisation.org.uk
Immunisation Against Infectious Disease (The Green Book) - www.doh.gov.uk/greenbook/
From the Department of Health. Aimed at health professionals but of interest to all.
© EMIS and PIP 2004 Updated February 2004 PRODIGY Validated