Data recently published in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease by Public Health England shows that meningococcal W (MenW) cases have been steadily increasing every year since 2009.
Researchers at the Meningitis Research Foundation’s Meningococcal Genome Library determined that ST-11, a particularly deadly strain of MenW also called cc-11, has been behind most of the cases.
In the past, MenW typically only affected older adults who already had other health conditions, but now there are more new cases involving younger adults and children who were otherwise healthy. There is no age correlation among the most recent MenW patients.
Like other forms of meningitis, MenW is transmitted through respiratory and throat secretions. Symptoms often resemble the flu, including sudden onset fever, headache, a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, rash and confusion.
MenACWY, a MenW vaccine, is the best way to avoid getting the disease, but it's currently only recommended for people traveling internationally or those with serious immune disorders. Scientists also are working to develop the Bexsero vaccine, which is specific to combating the ST-11 strain.
Researchers originally presented this data at the International Pathogenic Neisseria Conference in October.