The medical director of Travelvax Australia, Dr Ed Bajrovic, says a meningococcal meningitis vaccine just released in Australia will protect a broader range of travellers against the disease.
The vaccine, Menactra, is suitable for children as young as two and adults up to 55 years of age who are travelling to regions where the disease is a risk. It protects against four of the five strains that most commonly cause disease (there is no vaccine for the fifth).
Bajrovic says meningococcal disease, which can progress to a life-threatening illness within 24 hours, is found across the globe, with regional epidemics in places such as sub-Saharan Africa.
A group at particular risk is backpackers who have prolonged contact with local people in endemic countries. ”Meningococcal disease spreads in crowded places like buses or trains, or in backpacker hostels,” Bajrovic says.
Australians working or studying in developed countries are also a risk group, along with Muslim pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Travelvax says while the Menactra vaccine is new in Australia, it has a “long safety profile” in the United States, where about 40 million doses have been administered since 2005.
This article is an excerpt from Jane E. Fraser’s weekly travel column in The Sun Herald, Sydney.