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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon but serious and potentially life-threatening infection that usually involves the blood stream (bacteremia) and/or central nervous system (meningitis). Meningococcal infections are caused by certain serogroups (primarily B, C and Y in the US) of the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The bacteria are spread primarily by respiratory droplets (droplet spread) produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and by direct contact with the saliva of an infected person (or carrier). Rates of disease are highest in young infants, adolescents and young adults. A vaccine is available to protect against infections with type A, C, W-135, and Y meningococcal disease and is recommended for all adolescents.

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Meningococcal disease in King County

Purpose of surveillance:

  • To identify, and monitor trends in incidence of N. meningiditis causing invasive disease in King County, including the occurrence of specific meningococcal serogroups
  • To identify outbreaks and implement appropriate disease control measures including vaccination
  • To identify exposed persons for post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent infection

Meningococcus disease Case Data in King County

Local epidemiology:

Four cases of confirmed invasive meningococcal disease were reported in 2012. Three cases had meningitis and one case had bacteremia. The cases ranged from age 10-80 years. All of the cases required hospitalization and none died. Three of the cases occurred during spring, which is characteristic of meningococcal disease patterns in Europe and North America.

One of the isolates was serogroup B, two were serogroup Y and one was serogroup Z. Serogroups B and Y account for 85% of the 33 cases reported from 2007 through 2012 for which serogroup data are available. Over the past 10 years there has been a decline in serogroup C disease. Of the 33 cases reported from 2007 through 2012, only 1 (3.0%) was serogroup C compared to 36% of the 64 cases reported from 2002-2006.

Each year in Washington state there are between 26 to 76 meningococcal disease cases reported with 1 to 8 deaths.

Meningococcus disease Case Data in King County by year and serotype