CDC Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Meningococcal Disease Outbreak Reported in the Republic of Benin

Vaccination against Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A, C, W, and Y suggested before visiting Benin Africa

african village river with boats

An outbreak of meningococcal disease has been reported in the Banikora District of the Republic of Benin.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 1 Travel Alert on January 28, 2020, notifying visitors to the northwest border with Burkina Faso, which is located in west-central Africa.

This ‘Practice Usual Precaution’ Alert is important since illnesses related to the meningococcal disease are often severe and can be fatal. 

Meningococcal disease includes infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections. The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease is spread through respiratory secretions, such as saliva, says the CDC.

Most cases of meningococcal disease in this outbreak have been caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C.

There is a vaccine available to travelers that can help prevent infection against meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C.

The CDC says health officials are reporting that a smaller number of cases in this outbreak have been caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup X. 

Unfortunately, there are no vaccines available today that prevent infection against meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup X.

Approximately 7–10 days before departure to Benin, the CDC suggests all travelers aged 2 months or older should be vaccinated with a single vaccine dose against Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A, C, W, and Y. 

And, children younger than 2 years of age are recommended to receive 2–4 doses of serogroup A, C, W, Y vaccine before traveling, depending on age.

Since 2005, most adolescents in the United States receive vaccination against serogroups A, C, W, and Y. Protection from the serogroup A, C, W, Y vaccine only lasts for a few years.

Therefore, people who were vaccinated more than 3–5 years ago are recommended to receive an additional vaccine dose before traveling.

Vaccination against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B (Bexsero or Trumenba) is not indicated for the outbreak in Benin. 

There are 2 meningococcal vaccines available in the USA that protect against infection from serogroups A, C, W, and Y; Menactra and Menveo.

From a security perspective, the US Department of State issued a Level 1 Travel Advisory for Benin on May 23, 2019.  

This ‘Exercise Normal Precautions’ Advisory includes specific security notices for ‘urban areas’ and for Park Pendjari, Park W and adjacent hunting zones, and other areas near Benin’s northern border with Burkina Faso, due to terrorism and kidnapping.

The CDC suggests international travelers who have vaccination questions to speak with a certified healthcare professional prior to departure.

Travel vaccine news published by Vax-Before-Travel.