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#StopTheSpread Warning to Youngsters About New Strain of Meningitis

04 August 2015

UK based international charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is encouraging youngsters to protect themselves against meningitis and septicaemia caused by groups A, C, W and Y meningococcal bacteria (MenACWY) through their #StoptheSpread national campaign. 

From August, 14 to 18 year olds and under 25 year olds going to university for the first time will be given a one off MenACWY vaccine particularly aimed at combatting the continued increase in the number of cases of the virulent and deadly new ST-11 strain of meningococcal W (MenW). MRF’s Meningococcal Genome Library was instrumental in identifying this new strain.

Meningococcal bacteria has always been the leading cause of life-threatening meningitis and septicaemia in the UK. Six different kinds, serogroups A, B, C, W, X, and Y, cause the most disease. For decades meningococcal B has caused most cases of the disease in the UK. Meningococcal C was also common until the MenC vaccine was introduced, reducing cases to just a handful each year.

But now cases of meningococcal W (MenW) have risen year on year in England and Wales since 2009. Public Health England figures show that in 2008/9 MenW accounted for only 1-2% of meningococcal cases, but in 2013/14 it had increased to cause 15% of cases.

  • 17-18 year olds and new starters at university will be immunised first as they are at the highest risk.  Younger teenagers will be immunised within the next 2 years.

  • People born between 1 September 1996 and 31 August 1997 will be contacted by their GP over the summer and immunisation of these age groups will begin from 1st August 2015. 

  •  New starters at university younger than 25 and born before 1 September 1996 are also eligible to receive the vaccine through their GP from August 2015 but will have to arrange the appointment themselves.

  • The MenC booster for 14 year olds will be directly replaced with MenACWY as of September 2015

MRF Chief Executive Christopher Head commented, “We have launched #StoptheSpread to encourage all students starting university in September and young people at secondary school to make sure they are protected against this deadly strain of meningitis and septicaemia.”

He continued: “The rise in this ST-11 MenW disease is particularly alarming because it is striking mainly healthy people across all age groups, but with a marked spike amongst teenagers. In England and Wales alone, 184 cases were reported from July 2014 to June 2015 compared to just 98 cases for the same time period over the previous year.

“The ST-11 strain is also associated with more severe illness which often requires treatment in intensive care and has a higher associated death rate than other strains of meningococcal disease, 13% compared to 5-10% for other strains.

“Adolescents aged 14 to 18 are more likely to carry meningococcal bacteria than any other age group and offering MenACWY vaccine to all of them should stop the bacteria from being passed on. This means that even unvaccinated people will be protected from catching the disease – an effect known as herd protection.

“Although we welcome the implementation of the MenACWY vaccine amongst 14-18 year olds over the next couple of years, it will take time for herd protection to be established.  So babies, who are particularly vulnerable to developing disease will remain unprotected.

“Fortunately, the MenB vaccine Bexsero, which will be routinely available for babies from September, will protect against Men W ST-11.”


Notes to editors

More about the rise of MenW ST-11 at

Media contact: Adrian Robson, MRF Head of Comms on 01454 280417 or: Becky Pierce-Jones, PR Manager on 01454 280416

Watch the video to learn about Sophie Royce's fight against meningitis and why she supports the #StopTheSpread campaign

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