Taiwan health officials are reporting a meningitis vaccine shortage linked to the meningococcal meningitis outbreak in Africa prompting officials to advise the public to postpone travel to the high-risk countries on the continent.

Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström
Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

They note that scheduled shipments of vaccine expected in June did not arrive. They do expect the vaccine to be delivered later this month.

To ward off infection, people planning to travel overseas before the end of August are advised to visit the outpatient travel clinic at 26 contracted hospitals in the nation to seek relevant prevention measures, pay attention to hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and receive the vaccine after they arrive in the country of destination.

Meningococcal disease is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions such as saliva or mucus, and is most commonly spread through direct, close contact with an infected individual, which can include kissing and sharing of beverages, eating utensils, and lip balm. It is not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Symptoms include rapid onset of a fever, headache and stiff neck. Othersymptoms can include vomiting, rash, and confusion. Meningococcal disease can result in serious health consequences that require immediate medical attention.

Bacterial meningitis can be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics may be recommended for those in close contact with an infected person to decrease the risk of spreading disease. There are also vaccines available to protect against certain strains of bacterial meningitis.

In Taiwan, the currently in-use meningococcal quadrivalent vaccines protect against 4 types of meningococcal bacteria: types A, C, Y and W-135. On average, approximately 2 to 6 cases of meningococcal meningitis cases are reported in Taiwan each year.

In addition, meningitis B is the dominant strain in Taiwan, which is not protected by the quadrivalent vaccine. Therefore, the quadrivalent vaccine is not included in the routine vaccination program in Taiwan.

The vaccine is only available through importation by Taiwan CDC and for self-paid vaccination at the outpatient travel clinic at 26 contracted hospitals in the nation.

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