The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reports twelve cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) type Y have been reported since June 2022; the outbreak was declared in September 2022.
Three patients have died from complications associated with the disease, indicating this outbreak strain might cause more severe illness than is usually seen in type Y cases. The deaths occurred between one to six days after symptoms began for the three fatal cases. This strain is also believed to be circulating more widely, both in Virginia and other states.
VDH has not identified a common risk factor; it is thought that the cases are connected by asymptomatic community transmission. Case-patients are all residents of Hampton Roads and most are Black or African American adults between 30-60 years of age. Eleven patients were not vaccinated for meningococcal disease type Y, and one was partially vaccinated.
Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The bacteria spread from person to person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., kissing, coughing or sneezing directly into the face of others, or sharing cups, water bottles, eating utensils, cigarettes).
This bacterium can be commonly found in the nose and throat of people without causing disease. Rarely, people can develop serious forms of illness, such as meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or septicemia (a bloodstream infection). Symptoms can first appear flu-like and may quickly become more severe. Early detection and diagnosis are essential for timely treatment with antibiotics. You should not delay seeking care if you experience the following symptoms: fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright light, and possibly a rash.
In general, and while this outbreak continues, VDH recommends:
- Don’t share personal items (e.g., vapes, lipsticks, toothbrushes)
- Practice good hand hygiene
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Do not delay seeking care if you experience symptoms of meningococcal disease
- Ensure adolescents and teenagers receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) on schedule at 11 or 12 years old and then a booster dose at 16 years old
- Speak to your healthcare provider if you are at high-risk for meningococcal disease to ensure you are up to date on the MenACWY vaccine
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