Surveillance

Rates of meningococcal disease are at historic lows in the United States. Tracking for meningococcal disease is very good in this country. Health departments respond to every case of meningococcal disease and implement control measures to reduce spread of the disease.

Disease Trends

Rates of meningococcal disease have been declining in the United States since the late 1990s. In 2017, there were about 350 total cases of meningococcal disease reported (See Figure 1). Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but rates of disease are highest in children younger than 1 year old, followed by a second peak in adolescence. Among adolescents and young adults, those 16 through 23 years old have the highest rates of meningococcal disease (See Figure 2). The proportion of cases caused by each serogroup varies by age group (See Figure 3).

Meningococcal disease is also seasonal: the number of cases generally peaks each year in January, February, and March.

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows incidence rates (per 100,000 persons) of meningococcal disease in the United States by year from 1970 to 2017. The incidence rate began declining in 1995; however, it has reached an historic low of 0.11 in 2017. View data for this chart.

Figure 2
A graph showing rates of meningococcal disease by age groups. Infants, adolescents, and young adults have the highest rates of meningococcal disease in the United States.

Figure 2 shows incidence rates (per 100,000 persons) of meningococcal disease by age group from 2007 to 2017. Infants, adolescents, and young adults have the highest rates of meningococcal disease in the United States. View data for this chart.

Figure 3
Figure 3 shows incidence rates (per 100,000 persons) of meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B compared to serogroups A, C, W, and Y by age group from 2007 to 2017.

Figure 3 shows incidence rates (per 100,000 persons) of meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B compared to serogroups A, C, W, and Y by age group from 2007 to 2017. Serogroup B caused approximately 60% of cases among children less than 5 years old. Serogroups C, Y, or W, which are covered by meningococcal conjugate vaccines, caused approximately two in three cases of meningococcal disease among persons 11 years old or older during this time period. However, in 2017, serogroups C, Y, or W caused approximately 1 in 2 cases of meningococcal disease among persons 11 years old or older. View data for this chart.

Surveillance Systems

Bact Facts Interactive
magnifying glass with bacteria symbol

Analyze and visualize ABCs N. meningitidis data using Bact Facts Interactive.

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

In 2015, CDC implemented enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance. The goals for this surveillance are to:

  • Collect more complete data on key variables for monitoring meningococcal disease epidemiology
  • Inform vaccine policy decisions
  • Collect meningococcal isolates from a broad and representative population

Most state and large jurisdiction health departments now routinely collect data and isolates.

The most recent Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) case classification (2015) for meningococcal disease is:

Suspected

  • Clinical purpura fulminans in the absence of a positive blood culture; or
  • Gram-negative diplococci, not yet identified, isolated from a normally sterile body site (e.g., blood or cerebrospinal fluid [CSF])

Probable

  • Detection of Neisseria meningitidis antigen
    • In formulin-fixed tissue by immunohistochemistry (IHC); or
    • In CSF by latex agglutination

Confirmed

  • Detection of N. meningitidis-specific nucleic acid in a specimen obtained from a normally sterile body site (e.g., blood or CSF), using a validated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay; or
  • Isolation of N. meningitidis
    • From a normally sterile body site (e.g., blood or CSF, or less commonly, synovial, pleural, or pericardial fluid); or
    • From purpuric lesions.

Enhanced Meningococcal Disease Surveillance Reports

View meningococcal disease data, including case counts and incidence by serogroup and age. Reports also include vaccination history of cases, meningococcal related deaths, incidence by serogroup and college attendance, and HIV status.

Page last reviewed: May 31, 2019