Meningitis and the Men ACWY vaccine

Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease (meningitis and septicaemia) is a rare but life-threatening disease caused by meningococcal bacteria. 

Older teenagers and new university students are at higher risk of infection because many of them mix closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their nose and throat.

Anyone who is eligible for the MenACWY vaccine should have it, even if they have previously had the MenC vaccine.

The MenACWY vaccine is highly effective in preventing illness caused by the 4 meningococcal strains, including the extremely harmful MenW strain.


What is the Men ACWY Vaccine?

The Men ACWY vaccine is a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four different strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y.

The Men ACWY vaccine is called Nimenrix.

For full details on the Men ACWY vaccine, including why and when you should have it, visit NHS MenACWY vaccine overview

Read the patient information leaflet for Nimenrix (PDF, 385kb).


How to spot Meningitis and Septicaemia

Symptoms of meningococcal disease (meningitis and septicaemia) can start like a bad case of flu but they get worse very quickly. Early treatment can be lifesaving.

Other symptoms of meningococcal disease can include:

  • a headache
  • vomiting
  • a stiff neck
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high temperature
  • cold hands and feet
  • drowsiness or difficulty waking up

A rash may also appear that can develop into a purple, bruise-like rash that does not fade under pressure – for instance, when gently pressing a glass against it (the “glass test”).

If you, or a child or adult you know, has any of these symptoms, get urgent medical help. Do not wait for the rash to develop. Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics are vital.

Although meningococcal disease commonly causes meningitis and septicaemia, which can trigger sepsis, it can also more rarely cause other illnesses. These include pneumonia and joint infections (septic arthritis).