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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 46 Article 1
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 46, 13 November 2003

Citation style for this article: Lawrence J, Handford S. Meningococcal meningitis increase in Moscow associated with serogroup A: advice to travellers. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(46):pii=2323. Available online:

Meningococcal meningitis increase in Moscow associated with serogroup A: advice to travellers

Jo Lawrence ( Health Protection Agency Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, and Sarah Handford (, Scientific coordinator, European Union Invasive Bacterial Infections Surveillance (EU-IBIS), Health Protection Agency Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre London, England

There has been a rise in the number of cases of meningococcal meningitis in Moscow. By the end of October 2003, there had been 268 cases (including 22 deaths) mostly in children, which is approximately twice the average number of cases reported (1). Unusually, many of the cases have been reported at the end of the summer and in early autumn; the usual seasonal increase is in February and March. Meningococcal serogroup A has been identified in 90% of the strains isolated. The city health authorities in Moscow have initiated a mass vaccination campaign in order to prevent further cases occurring during the coming peak transmission season.

Cases of meningococcal serogroup A infection are rare in the European Union, and it is uncommon to even have infections associated with travel to those endemic areas where serogroup A is most frequent, such as the meningitis belt in Africa, and therefore it is not anticipated that many cases will be imported from Russia into the EU.

The National Travel Health Network and Centre in England (NaTHNaC, has issued guidance for English health professionals who may be advising travellers to Moscow (2), recommending that meningococcal vaccine should only be considered for travellers to Moscow who will be teaching in schools, attending university or other courses, frequenting crowded bars and clubs or working in a medical setting.

The European Union Invasive Bacterial Infections Surveillance Network (EU-IBIS, would be interested to know what guidance is being issued in other European countries; please email information to Sarah Handford (

  1. Meningitis, meningococcal type A - Russia (Moscow).in: ProMED-mail [online]. Boston US: International Society for Infectious Diseases, archive no. 20031029.2696, 29 October 2003. (
  2. National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC). Meningococcal meningitis in Moscow. Clinical updates for health professionals. November 2003. ( [accessed 11 November 2003]

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