The Centers for Disease Control issued a warning to alert the public of the rise in bacterial infections.

In an official health advisory sent out on March 28, the CDC announced there has been an increase in cases of the rare “invasive meningococcal disease.According to the advisory, healthcare workers should be on alert, even if patients do not exhibit typical symptoms.

“In 2023, 422 cases were reported in the United States, the highest annual number of cases reported since 2014,” the CDC said. “As of March 25, 2024, 143 cases have been reported to CDC for the current calendar year, an increase of 62 cases over the 81 reported as of this date in 2023.”

The CDC recommended healthcare providers “have a heightened suspicion” for meningitis among disproportionately affected individuals. They also advise everyone, including those with HIV, to be “up to date on their meningococcal vaccines.”

Patient receiving shot.

Of the current 143 known cases in 2024, 101 are the same variant of meningitis — serogroup Y. 

The CDC said “cases caused by this strain are disproportionately occurring in people ages 30–60 years (65%), Black or African American people (63%), and people with HIV (15%).” The strain has also presented as bacteremia and septic arthritis as seen in some of the 2023 cases.

Of 94 reported cases studied by the CDC, 17 — or 18% — died of the disease, which is a higher rate of fatality compared to cases between 2017 and 2021.

Illustration of neisseria meningitidis bacteria.

Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

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The bacteria Neisseria meningitidis is what causes meningococcal disease — and according to the CDC, it can cause symptoms such as fever, nausea or vomiting, altered mental status and rapid breathing. The disease, which can reach the bloodstream, is known to “worsen rapidly” and “become life-threatening within hours.”

“Immediate antibiotic treatment for meningococcal disease is critical,” the CDC advised. “Survivors may experience long-term effects such as deafness or amputations of the extremities.”

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the state has been experiencing an outbreak since June 2022. They currently have documented 36 cases and six deaths.


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