Meningitis and septicaemia: UK facts and figures



We estimate that about 3,200 people get bacterial meningitis and associated septicaemia in the UK each year. This figure is intended to represent the true burden of uncontrolled disease in the UK rather than the number of cases in a single year. Where possible we have corrected for under-reporting of cases in routine surveillance.

The incidence of meningococcal disease naturally fluctuates over time. For decades menB infection has been the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK. Yearly cases of menB disease have been steadily dropping since a peak in 2000 (Figure 1), however, with no menB vaccine as part of the routine immunisation schedule in the UK the disease remains uncontrolled and the number of cases could easily rise again in future.

Table 1 shows annual cases of bacterial meningitis according to UK country and cause of disease. In order to represent the potential burden of uncontrolled menB disease, we have taken an average yearly incidence between epidemiological years* 2000/01 to 2011/12. Because the Hib, menC and pnuemococcal vaccine schedules have been amended introduced or the vaccine schedule amended to improve protection against meningitis caused by these bugs since 2000, adjustments have been made to the averages to remove cases that are in excess of present (i.e. vaccine controlled) levels.

Table 1: Average annual cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia representing the current burden of uncontrolled disease by country and type


Meningococcal meningitis & septicaemia Pneumococcal meningitis Haemophilus influenzae meningitis TB Meningitis Other Causes Neonatal Group B Steptococcal septicaemia Total
All MenB
England
1659 1494 358
 
19
 
199
 
274
 


 
2579
 
Wales72
 64
Scotland 148 118 26 4
7
51

236
Northern Ireland 98
84 3
0 1
33

134
Total UK 1976
1761 387 23
207
358
274 3223

Table 2 shows epidemiological year* 2011/12 when there were approximately 2,350 cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK. As discussed, we do not use the single most recent year’s worth of data to represent the current burden of disease because MenB disease naturally fluctuates over time. It is likely that cases will rise again if the infection remains uncontrolled, so looking at data from this year alone under-represents the true burden of disease.

Table 2: Annual cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia by country and type (2011-2012)


Meningococcal meningitis & septicaemia Pneumococcal meningitis Haemophilus influenzae meningitis TB Meningitis Other Causes Neonatal Group B Steptococcal septicaemia Total
All MenB
England
1178 991 297
 
7
 
192
 
71
 


 
1789
 
Wales
 4434
Scotland 85 62 37 5 5 106
238
Northern Ireland 48 40 6 0 0 2
56
Total UK 1355 1127 340 12 197 179 274 2357



Figure 1: Laboratory-confirmed cases of MenC and MenB in England and Wales by epidemiological year


We collect data on the number of cases from different sources including the Health Protection Agency, Health Protection Scotland, Northern Ireland Public Health Agency, and English Hospital Episode Statistics. The source of the data and an explanation of any calculations/adjustments made can be obtained by downloading the supplementary spreadsheet with full calculations.

*Epidemiological year – the year running from July to June, rather than January to December. Most forms of meningitis, like many infectious diseases, vary with the season and reach a peak during the winter. Looking at epidemiological years means that every winter peak always falls within one year rather than being divided between two consecutive calendar years. We have used data for epidemiological years when available. Where data are available for calendar year only, we have taken data from 2012 to keep as closely as possible to epidemiological year 2011/12.