Meningitis can kill in hours. For some of those who survive, there can be serious health, social and economic consequences.
There is no single meningitis vaccine that protects against all forms of the disease. This is because there are several viruses and bacteria that can cause meningitis.
However, for some of these viruses and bacteria, vaccines are available. For example, vaccines are available against meningococcal, pneumococcal and Haemophilus influenzae type B (HiB) bacterial infections. Bacterial meningitis kills one in 10 people who contract it, and leads to lifelong disability in one in five people who survive it.
There is also a vaccine against the mumps virus (which can, in rare cases, lead to meningitis). The mumps virus is part of the infant immunisation schedule, as part of the measles-containing vaccine.
Despite being a dreaded infection and the development of several vaccines, efforts to control meningitis have lagged behind progress on other diseases. The Global Roadmap for Defeating Meningitis aims to dramatically drive down the number of infections by 2030. There is still a long way to go.
The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) says delivering on the aspirations of the Global Roadmap could save 200,000 lives annually and significantly reduce disabilities caused by meningitis.
To mark World Meningitis Day (5 October), survivors, bereaved families and campaigners are coming together to raise awareness of meningitis, its signs and symptoms, the vaccines that are available, and that it is an infection that needs global attention and effort to be defeated.
The annual World Meningitis Day campaign aims to keep up the momentum generated by the roadmap and encourage the public and policymakers to deliver on its goals.
In the meantime, individuals, parents and families can play their part by ensuring their vaccines are up to date and watching for the signs and symptoms of meningitis.