Influenza and meningococcal disease: Lessons for travellers and government from 2 epidemic diseases

Robert Booy*, Haitham El Bashir, Harunor Rashid, Delane Shingadia, Elizabeth Haworth

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Influenza and meningococcal disease are two serious diseases that are especially linked. Outbreaks of influenza have been frequently associated with secondary outbreaks of meningococcal disease. Travellers such as Hajj pilgrims are at particular risk, the most recent meningococcal outbreaks being in 2000 and 2001, while concern is rising that the annual pilgrimage, centred as it presently is on winter, may even become the epicentre of an avian influenza pandemic. Routine vaccination of pilgrims against meningococcal disease using a 4-valent product has been in place since 2002 with good effect, but influenza vaccine is not yet routinely required for all pilgrims despite the high proportion afflicted. Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccines are effective in older children and adults and this cheaper product can play a role in the short term management of meningococcal outbreaks due to serogroups A, C, W135 or Y. The impressively fast development of a C conjugate vaccine in the late 1990s was a credit to the close collaboration of pharma, academia and the executive. A similar alignment could accelerate the production of an efficacious and cost-effective H5N1 influenza vaccine through direct transparent competition with head-to-head randomised, double-blinded controlled trials. Both organisms have a propensity to mutate and adapt to immune pressure. There are lessons to be learnt from how we manage each for the control of the other.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)253-256
    Number of pages4
    JournalTravel Medicine and Infectious Disease
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


    • Influenza
    • Influenza vaccine
    • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine
    • Meningococcal disease
    • Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine


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