Meningococcal outbreaks

Several strains of meningococcal disease are posing a risk to Australians travelling overseas

A recent outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease among men in New York City is a reminder of the real risk of the disease for many travellers.

The New York outbreak involved a group of men who have sex with men (MSM), with 22 cases reported between 2010 and 2013 (including four this year). Seven men died, five of whom were HIV-positive. Most of the cases involved the serogroup C of Neisseria meningitidis.1

Worldwide, invasive meningococcal disease is a prevalent cause of death and disability, with about 500,000 cases each year, resulting in about 150,000 deaths. Even with appropriate care, case fatality rates can be as high as 10%; and, of course, much higher in untreated cases.

In survivors, neurological sequelae and damage from skin necrosis are common outcomes.

Although there are 13 serogroups of N. meningitidis (classified according to the antigenic