Meningococcal Disease Protection for Children Planning to Travel Abroad

Meningococcal Disease Protection for Children With Travel Exposures

As the academic year progresses, children planning for international studies begin with the process of visa approvals, applications, and accommodations. But every country has its own set of rules when it comes to medical clearance.

Even if not for educational reasons, children travelling abroad also do need immunization. The change in temperature, weather, food and water intake exposes them to pathogens that cause diseases which are vaccine-preventable such as Meningococcal Disease, Hepatitis A, Influenza, Typhoid, etc. Parents/guardians should check their child’s vaccination card and consult their doctor for the necessary vaccinations because clearing all health concerns and keeping up with the required immunisation is crucial in planning for a successful travel abroad.

Below is the list of questions that may clarify any doubt regarding safety among children with travel exposures.

How Is Travelling an Important Part of Child Development?

Travel is one of the facets of a child’s education; not mandatory but valuable. Travelling exposes a child to a foreign land, its culture, new languages, and new scenarios. When one goes abroad to study, they not only learn the course they have signed up for, but they also gain real-life experiences by learning about tolerance, independence, and accepting diversity. Travelling for leisure, too, is educational and helps mould a person’s character in many ways.

What Travel-Related Infections Can Children Get?

With new territories could come new kinds of infections children’s bodies haven’t been exposed to in the past due to changes in weather, food and water intake or lack of hygiene. Some reactions to new places could show up in the form of persistent diarrhoea, meningitis, skin rashes, seasonal influenza, respiratory infections, parasitic infections, fever, and cough are some common travel-related illnesses. 

Of all illnesses, the meningococcal disease may have severe life-threatening complications and may be fatal if timely intervention is not provided. It can be prevented by vaccination along with maintaining other preventive measures such as good hygiene practices.

What Is Meningococcal Disease?

Meningococcal Meningitis disease is the inflammation of the meninges lining the brain and the spinal cord by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. The transmission of the bacteria is through person-to-person contact through coughing, sneezing or throat secretions.

Once the bacteria enter an individual’s bloodstream, it is carried to the central nervous system (CNS). In the CNS, the bacteria multiply rapidly, infect the cerebrospinal fluid and cause inflammation of the meninges.

The illness can have long-lasting complications such as hearing loss, vision loss, pneumonia, cognitive disabilities, and sepsis.

Why Is Meningitis Vaccination Recommended for Children With Travel Exposures?

In recent cases, incidences of meningitis among young adults, including students travelling abroad for studies and thereby living in school residence facilities, college campuses and dorms, and military camps, have increased more than in other groups of people. This is because students live together in confined spaces and share things, which makes the transmission of bacteria and viruses easy.  

Vaccination, along with good hygiene practices, may help prevent the spread of meningococcal disease-causing pathogens in children and helps them focus consistently on their studies.

What Meningococcal Vaccinations Are Recommended for Children Who Are Planning to Travel?

Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) recommend the use of meningococcal conjugate vaccines (MCVs) for children planning to study abroad.

Some colleges in the US also require MenB vaccination along with MenACWY. Hence, it is best to check with the university authorities about the requirement of vaccinations before planning for one.

In India, health experts recommend the use of the meningococcal vaccine for 9 months onwards as a two-dose schedule, and above 2 years as a single-dose vaccine. Please consult your doctor to know more.

When and Where Can Your Child Get the Meningococcal Vaccination When Planning for Travel?

Meningococcal disease vaccination is available at healthcare clinics and hospitals across India. To know more about the vaccination schedule and Meningococcal Disease, please consult your doctor.

Who Might Not Be Able to Get the Meningococcal Vaccination?

People who should avoid getting the meningitis vaccination include:

  • People who have had a prior history of a severe allergic reaction to the meningitis vaccination or any of its components.
  • Those who are moderately or very sick. A mild cold, however, is suitable for vaccination.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women and those who have Guillain-Barre syndrome should consult their doctor first.

Are There Any Side Effects of Meningococcal Vaccination?

People who receive meningococcal vaccination may experience temporary and mild side effects, such as redness or soreness at the injection site, that usually go away on their own. Only a few per cent of people experience other side effects, such as fever and headache.

When to Consult a Doctor?

Meningitis is fatal. If you experience or see any of the following symptoms in any member of your family, seek immediate medical help:

  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache
  • Vomiting

Diseases and infections are a hindrance to children’s productivity and competitiveness. Vaccination, along with other preventive measures, secures the children’s future to a healthy life. Please consult your doctor for more information, and to know more about the disease, click here.

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Disclaimer: Issued in public interest by GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Limited. Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai 400 030, India.

Information appearing in this material is for general awareness only. Nothing contained in this material constitutes medical advice. Please consult your doctor for any medical queries, any question or concern you may have regarding your condition. The disease list indicated for vaccination is not complete, please consult your doctor for the complete vaccination schedule.

NP-IN-FLT-OGM-2200079, DoP Nov 2022

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