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Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Meningitis (Meningococcal Disease)

Meningococcal Disease:
Technical & Clinical Information

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Clinical Features Fever, headache and stiff neck in meningitis cases, and sepsis and rash in meningococcemia.
Etiologic Agent Multiple serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis.
Incidence 0.5-5/100,000 for endemic disease, worldwide in distribution. During 1996-1997, 213,658 cases with 21,830 deaths were reported in West African countries. Up to 2% in epidemics in Africa.
Sequelae 10%-14% of cases are fatal. Of patients who recover 11%-19% have permanent hearing loss, mental retardation, loss of limbs, or other serious sequelae.
Transmission N. meningitidis colonizes mucosal surfaces of nasopharynx and is transmitted through direct contact with large droplet respiratory secretions from the patients or asymptomatic carriers. Humans are the only host.
Risk Groups Risk groups include infants and young children (for endemic disease), refugees, household contacts of case patients, military recruits, college freshmen who live in dormitories, microbiologists who work with isolates of N. meningitidis, patients without spleens or with terminal complement component deficiencies, and people exposed to active and passive tobacco smoke.
Surveillance Surveillance is conducted worldwide through International Disease Notification and in the United States by NETSS, and CDC's Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs).
Trends Devastating epidemics will continue to occur in countries throughout the meningitis belt of Africa; emergence of epidemics due to a new serogroup (W-135) in Africa; in the United States, increased frequency of outbreaks and changes distribution of serogroups responsible for endemic disease (increase in cases due to serogroup Y) as well as increased disease among adolescents and young adults.
Challenges Establishing surveillance and early detection of epidemics in Africa, followed by emergency mass vaccination campaigns reaching high vaccine coverage; integration of meningitis surveillance with surveillance for other epidemic-prone diseases; and introduction of conjugate meningococcal vaccines into routine childhood immunization programs in the United States and Africa.
Opportunities Incorporation of meningococcal conjugate vaccine in U.S. routine vaccination programs. Routine vaccination of infants in selected African countries and mass vaccination of children and adults using new conjugated meningococcal vaccines.

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This page last modified on May 28, 2008
Content last reviewed on May 28, 2008
Content Source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases: Division of Bacterial Diseases

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