Meningitis Now staff - Mark Hunt

Complacency warning as meningitis cases drop to record low during lockdown

Mark Hunt | 2nd October 2020

Meningitis Now has today warned parents not to be complacent about meningitis, after quarterly data released by Public Health England (PHE) show cases of the disease to be at their lowest since records began

Complacency warning as meningitis cases drop during lockdown

During the quarter of April to June 2020, all cases of meningitis dropped to 29 compared to 121 for the same period in 2019; a drop of 76%*. 

Citing the lockdown period data as a ‘false dawn’, Meningitis Now CEO Dr Tom Nutt urges parents and adults to remain vigilant and not to assume that meningitis has gone away. 

“Whilst these numbers are good to see, we have some real concerns about people becoming complacent about meningitis. Let’s be clear, the disease has not gone away, and it is still a real and present threat, particularly MenB, which is most prevalent amongst those who are most at risk, babies, teenagers, and older adults.”

Greatest concern

The data published by PHE reinforces Dr Nutt’s concerns, with MenB accounting for 59%* of the cases that did occur during the lockdown period being among those who are unlikely to have been vaccinated against this particular strain.

“Of greatest concern at this time is a potential increase in cases amongst young people who have just gone to university,” continues Dr Nutt. “With reported cases of Covid-19 rising significantly on campuses across the UK, it is very likely that there will be an increase in cases of meningitis amongst students. Whilst we would normally see an increase in cases at this time of year, the Covid dimension and the advice to self-isolate could be disastrous if the illness is due to meningitis, which can take a life in as little as 24 hours.

“Our advice, particularly to those who are at risk, is to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and if you have concerns about yourself, a loved one or a friend, call 111 immediately and get medical help.”

*Download the full PHE report