This reduction confirms what Meningitis Now had anticipated during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is that lockdown and social distancing would have a significant effect in reducing the transmission of the bacteria that can cause meningitis.
The report, "Invasive meningococcal disease in England: annual laboratory confirmed reports for epidemiological year 2020 to 2021", published on 25 January, states: “The COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of social distancing measures and lockdown periods across the UK from 23 March 2020 has had a significant impact on the spread and detection of other infections including IMD.
“In England the majority of IMD cases are seen in the winter and in 2020 to 2021 31 cases were reported between November 2020 and March 2021, 90% lower than the previous winter (305 cases).”
However, this report comes on the back of the publication of more recent data on IMD, showing a marked rise in cases of meningococcal meningitis to pre-pandemic levels amongst 15-24 year olds between September and November 2021.
Our Chief Executive Dr Tom Nutt commented: “Whilst it is good news to see the reduction in the number of cases of invasive meningococcal disease in this report, we have to bear in mind the special circumstances that have contributed to this situation, with unprecedented lockdowns and social distancing.
“Only last week we were talking about a current increase in MenB cases, particularly among students, as people begin to lead more normal lives and mix and socialise again. We also have to remember that invasive meningococcal disease is just one kind of meningitis – there are other causes and we continue to see new cases of meningitis every day.
“We therefore do not know to what extent this constitutes a rebound against these historically low figures and it remains vital that we keep our guard up. Meningitis is still very much with us and it’s vital that people stay aware of the signs and symptoms, seek urgent medical advice if the disease is suspected and keep up to date with all the vaccinations – the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from meningitis.
“There’s still a way to go to achieve our vision, where no one dies from this disease and everyone affected gets the support they need. We have no intention of resting on our laurels yet.”