APH 1997, 55, 323-330:

N. meningitidis: is there a meningitis epidemic ?

F. Carion

Keywords: meningococcus, incidence, public health, surveillance, N. meningitidis

In 1997 press and television announced several deadly cases of meningococcal meningitis.  The speed at which the illness progresses and the fear for an epidemic generated fear in the population. Allthough it is true that last years the number of registrated cases rose, the situation may not be dramatized. From 1991 to 1995 the yearly incidence of infections with meningococcus grew from 1 to 2 cases per 100 000 residents. Since then, the rate of infections has stabilised.

The first rise of infections with meningococcus was observed in the province of Antwerp (1993) and spread (1995) into the provinces Vlaams-Brabant and West-Vlaanderen. Currently, an increase is also observed in Brussels, some Walloon districts of Nivelles, Arlon and Tournai and the province of Limburg. lncrease is due to serogroup B and serotype 4:P1.4 within the serogroup B (in 1996, 91 % of the typed strains belonged to serogroup B and 50 % of the meningococcus B strains belonged to serotype 4:P1.4).

Most cases are young children, but an increase is noted among adolescents and young adults.