Steep Rise in MenW cases
26 February 2015
Figures published today show a continued increase in the number of cases of meningococcal W (MenW) meningitis and septicaemia.
The Health Protection Report, published by Public Health England, shows that while MenW has been on the rise since 2009, that rise seems to be accelerating.
While the rise was initially seen in adults it has now extended to all age groups and for the first time this decade young children have died as a result of MenW. A rise in cases in students has also been observed.
Analysis of genetic data within MRF’s Meningococcal Genome Library
shows that the majority of the MenW cases belong to a particularly deadly strain called ST-11 or cc-11, which carries a high risk of severe invasive disease and death. The rise in MenW also appears, within Europe, to be a UK phenomenon, as no other country on the continent is reporting similar increases.
Our genome library has also shown that this ST-11 MenW is the same strain that has been causing epidemic disease in Argentina, Brazil and in Chile, where it is associated with a death rate of 28% compared to 10% for other strains in the country.
Fortunately, there is protection available against MenW in the form of the MenACWY vaccine, although at the moment it is only recommended for travel abroad or for people with severe immune deficiencies. This report will be vital in informing the debate about extended use of the MenACWY vaccine in the wake of this rise in cases, and as a replacement for the MenC booster in teenagers – as advised to the Government by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
There is also evidence that the new Bexsero vaccine, mainly regarded as a meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine, will provide protection against this ST-11 strain, weighing even further in favour of this vaccine being introduced into the routine schedule as quickly as possible. MenB vaccine was recommended for inclusion in the childhood immunisation schedule by the JCVI in March 2014.
Public Health England is working to increase early recognition and prompt treatment of MenW as a potentially life-saving measure. Meningitis Research Foundation shares that aim to increase awareness and provides symptoms and early recognition resources
for health professionals and the general public. See the Health Protection ReportMore about MenW
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