Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Latest rise in meningitis cases a "cause for concern"

Andy Hopkinson | 7th June 2022

We’re concerned that cases of meningitis are on the rise again, especially among young people, after historic lows during the COVID-19 pandemic

Latest rise in meningitis cases is cause for concern

The latest figures, just released by the UK Health Security Agency for the period between October and December last year, show 65 confirmed cases of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia (invasive meningococcal disease).

This compares with 19 cases for the same period the previous year.

Whilst this is still well below pre-pandemic levels (185 cases for this period in 2019) we’re concerned that the number of cases, in particular of MenB, is rising and will continue to do so.

Mix and socialise again

Our chief executive Dr Tom Nutt said: “We always feared that the cases of invasive meningococcal disease would start to rise again from the historically low figures we saw during the pandemic as people – particularly young people – began to lead more normal lives and mix and socialise again.” 

The latest figures for England show that of the 65 confirmed cases in the period MenB accounted for 57 of these – 88 per cent. There were three cases of MenW, with one occurring in the 20 to 24 age group.

Overall, there were 14 cases in children aged under 5 and all but one of these were MenB. There was a total of 29 cases in the 15 to 19 age group, with 26 due to MenB.

Tom added: “A worrying aspect of these latest figures is the number of MenB cases in teenagers. Although most teenagers will be vaccinated for MenACWY, this will not protect them against MenB.

Half of cases affecting children and teenagers

“These latest figures bear that out and while overall numbers are still well below pre-pandemic levels, the significant growth in the number of cases is concerning, with nearly half of all recorded cases affecting children and teenagers.”

Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord, usually caused by bacteria or viruses. The bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia. The early signs and symptoms can be similar to flu and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle pain.

More specific signs include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash which doesn’t fade under pressure. The rash can be a late sign and may not appear. Meningitis Now's advice is to not wait for a rash before seeking medical advice.

Learn the signs and symptoms

Tom added: “Every day we hear of new cases and the heartbreak they can cause. These latest figures just spur us on to greater efforts as we work towards our vision – where no one dies from this disease and everyone affected gets the support they need.

“It’s vital that as well as keeping up to date with vaccinations people also take five minutes to learn the signs and symptoms of meningitis and seek urgent medical advice if the disease is suspected – we know early diagnosis and treatment improve outcomes. And it could help save someone’s life.”

If meningitis is suspected seek urgent medical help by contacting your GP or calling 111. In an emergency dial 999. Someone with meningitis or septicaemia can get worse very quickly, so keep checking them. 

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