top of page

About DTP & Meningitis ACWY

We're often asked what are DTP & Meningitis ACWY. Here's some useful information, with links at the end of this article for further information.


Diphtheria Vaccine

Diphtheria is a highly infectious disease affecting the throat and upper airways, caused by the diphtheria bacterium. The disease is found worldwide and high vaccination uptake is required to keep the rates of infection low.

It is still prevalent in many countries due to low immunisation levels, especially the Indian Subcontinent, Central and South East Asia, Africa and South America.


Infection is spread person to person through coughing or sneezing.


Diphtheria is an extremely serious illness and treatment is required as soon as the disease is suspected to prevent fatality. The incubation period is 2-5 days and symptoms include fever, sore throat, enlarged glands in the neck. If not treated early, the infection can cause obstruction of the airway and is fatal in 5-10% of cases. Fatality rates are higher in young children and older adults. Damage to the heart muscle and nervous system can also occur with the illness.


Intensive care support is required. Early administration of Diphtheria antitoxin helps reduce fatality, as does antibiotics.


There is a highly effective vaccine against Diphtheria, which is included in the childhood immunisations programme of most countries.

Tetanus Vaccination

Tetanus is a life threatening infection caused by a bacteria that is found in the environment worldwide.


The bacteria enters the body through skin wounds or cuts, especially soil contaminated wounds.


The incubation period is 4-21 days. Symptoms are due to muscles spasms and rigidity and include lock jaw and paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Death rates vary from 10% (if good intensive medical care is available) to 90%. Children and older adults are especially vulnerable.


Treatment includes intensive medical care, tetanus Immunoglobulin and wound care.


Vaccination is the mainstay of prevention as it is not possible to eradicate the bacteria from the environment.


Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. Since the launch of the Global Eradication Programme led by WHO, the incidence of Polio has fell by 99% since 1988. The disease is now endemic in 2 countries-Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, sporadic outbreaks still occur due to imported disease or as result of the oral polio vaccine virus reverting to infectious type.


The virus is transmitted through the personal contact and contaminated food and water.


The virus spreads from the gut to the nervous system causing paralysis. Irreversible paralysis occurs in 1 in 200 cases of polio and the death rate is 5-10% due to respiratory failure.


There is no treatment for polio infection and good supportive care is required.


The success of the Polio eradication programme is related to widespread vaccination campaign.

Find NHS information on commonly asked questions here:

Meningococcal Meningitis

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neiserria Meningitidis, of which there are around 12 strains. Six strains are responsible for epidemics worldwide-A, B. C, W, X and Y. Strains B and C are mainly responsible for outbreaks in industrialised countries, whereas strains A and W135 occur in the “meningitis belt” of Sub Saharan Africa, stretching from Senegal to parts of Ethiopia and causing outbreaks in the dry season annually.


The bacteria is carried at the back of the throat in 1 in 10 people and in 1 in 4 teenagers. It is transmitted through close contact by coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing food and drinking utensils.


Meningococcal infection can cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), septicaemia (blood poisoning) or both. Symptoms can develop within hours and can be non-specific. It is much harder to identify the infection in babies as the typical features tend to be absent. The rash does not always occur. In children and adults symptoms can include:

  • sudden onset of a high fever

  • a severe headache

  • dislike of bright lights (photophobia)

  • vomiting

  • painful joints

  • fitting

  • drowsiness that can deteriorate into a coma

  • In babies there may also be:

  • high pitched moaning or whimpering

  • blank starring, inactivity, hard to wake up

  • poor feeding

  • neck retraction with arching of the back

  • pale and blotchy complexion

Septicaemia occurs if the bacteria enter the bloodstream. A characteristic rash develops and may start as a cluster of pinprick blood spots under the skin, spreading to form bruises under the skin. The rash can appear anywhere on the body. It can be distinguished from other rashes by the fact that it does not fade when pressed under the bottom of a glass (the tumbler test).

Useful links:

Find NHS information on the Meningitis ACWY vaccine: here:

Find information from UK charity Meningitis Now here:

Find information on teenage immunisations for ages 14 to 18 (English and translations):


bottom of page