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Cases of meningococcal disease, which is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, can be devastating and often – and unexpectedly – strike otherwise healthy individuals. While meningococcal disease is serious, doctors and researchers have known about it for decades. There are also meningococcal vaccines available and recommended to prevent some commonly occurring serogroups ("strains") of the disease in the United States.

Surveillance Systems

Meningococcal disease is a reportable condition in all states, with cases immediately reported to state health departments. CDC closely tracks meningococcal disease through the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System and Active Bacterial Core surveillance.

Disease Trends

Rates of meningococcal disease have been declining in the United States since the late 1990s. There are now fewer than 1,000 cases reported each year. Meningococcal disease is also seasonal: the number of cases generally peaks each year in December and January.

Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but rates of disease are highest in children younger than 1 year of age, followed by a second peak in adolescence typically around 16 years of age (see graph below).

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