The Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of social distancing measures and lockdown across the UK from 23 March 2020 has had a significant impact on the spread and detection of meningitis, which fell to 29 cases between April and June 2020, 76% lower than in the same period in the previous year (121 cases).
The report also confirms an overall case numbers have continued to decline over the last two decades from a peak of 2,595 cases in 2000. The initial decline in meningitis cases was driven by the introduction of immunisation against group C (MenC) disease in 1999, which reduced MenC cases by approximately 96% (to around 30 to 40 cases each year).
Encouraging to see cases declining
Welcoming the publication of the latest figures, our chief executive Dr Tom Nutt commented, “It is encouraging to see the number of cases of meningitis continuing to decline on an annual basis, and whilst the report highlights the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing has had on case numbers during the year, it also recognises the significant role that the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme has had on reducing deaths and suffering at the hands of this disease."
Cases of MenW, MenC and Men Y were all down over the year, but 305 individuals were confirmed with MenB, the same number of cases as in the previous year. And incidence in infants increased slightly from 55 cases to 63 cases over the year.
Tom added: “Welcome as these overall figures are, the MenB and infant incidence figures show that we cannot afford to lower our guard yet. We must not become complacent - this disease is still very much with us.
“Every day we hear devastating stories of the impact of meningitis on individuals and their families.
Still a way to travel
“Although these figures show we are moving in the right direction we still have a way to travel to achieve our vision, where no one dies from this disease and everyone affected gets the support they need.
“This news, good as it is, just spurs us on to greater efforts to fight this disease. Stay aware of the signs and symptoms, seek urgent medical advice if you suspect meningitis and keep up to date with all your vaccinations.
Other main findings in the report include:
- 23% of cases occurred in those aged under 5 (105 cases);
- 13% in those aged between 5 and 14 (63 cases);
- 17% of cases occurred in the 15 to 24 age group (77 cases);
- 47% cases occurred in those over 25 (216 cases);
- 66% of cases were MenB, which was responsible for the majority of cases in those under 25;
- MenW cases reduced by 30% compared with 2018-19;
- 30 deaths were reported (case fatality rate 7 per cent).
Read the full report, published on 12 January 2021: "Invasive meningococcal disease in England: annual laboratory confirmed reports for epidemiological year 2019 to 2020, Health Protection Report Volume 15 Number 1".