invasive meningococcal infections, risk of mass gatherings
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invasive meningococcal infections, risk of mass gatherings

Source: CP Public Health France “Health risks/concerns related to the organization of large gatherings”, 21 June 2024; French Diplomacy website (accessed 10/04/24); Infovac France (accessed 10/04/24)

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs has just reported an increase in cases of meningococcal meningitis among unvaccinated people returning from the pilgrimage to Mecca, a high-risk event for the spread of invasive meningococcal diseases (IMD). The Ministry reminds in this regard that the quadrivalent vaccination (ACWY) is mandatory for travel to Mecca and must be carried out at least 10 days before departure. Moreover, all international gatherings pose an increased risk of transmitting infectious diseases that only vaccination can prevent.

An alliance of participants including infectious disease and pediatric specialists, patients, etc. MeningGO! hopes that the same vigilance will be maintained at the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer. However, on June 21, Santé Publique France highlighted the dangers associated with large gatherings, mentioning measles and respiratory diseases among the infectious risks, but not meningitis among the main threats.

Infections that are potentially fatal or leave sequelae.

However, meningococcal infections cause death in one in ten people and have sequelae in one in five survivors, such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy, cognitive impairment, etc. Hence the importance of prevention through vaccination, as invasive meningococcal infections increased by 72% in 2023 compared to 2022, with significant mortality. 2024 follows the same trend.

Experts point out that, in order to protect against meningococcal meningitis in France, the recent extension by the High Authority for Health (HAS) of vaccination recommendations for serogroups ACWY and B should have been an opportunity to start a vaccination campaign before this global event. This would help protect athletes and the public, while raising public awareness of the importance of this vaccination. MeningGO! highlights the need to protect the health of athletes and spectators, both French and foreign, who are at risk of spreading this preventable disease.

IMM is caused by bacteria called meningococci.

Twelve families of meningococci (serogroups) have been identified, mainly A, B, C, W, and Y. Most meningococcal infections remain benign, causing respiratory or ENT infections such as strep throat, otitis or sinusitis, panic or whirlwind. However, in rare cases, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier, infecting the cerebrospinal fluid, leading to swelling and inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that wrap around the brain and spinal cord.

Other clinical forms include arthritis, septic pericarditis, and purpura fulminans (a combination of septic shock and purpura). Although rare, these infections are fatal in about one in ten cases, despite antibiotics. MIM primarily affects children under 5 years of age, as well as those aged 11 to 24 years.

Know more:

– What are the vaccination recommendations against serogroups A, C, W and Z on the Infovac France website?

– What are the symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease?

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