Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) is a serious infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides. If the bacterium invades body tissue, it can cause meningitis, an infection of the meninges membrane around the brain and spine. IMD can affect all ages, but infants and children are at greatest risk of infection. N. meningitides is primarily spread from person to person via respiratory fluids. Risk factors include gathering in large groups; travelling to certain high-risk regions, specifically sub-Saharan Africa; and being on immunosuppressants. As a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic restrictions, a reduction in the incidence of IMD has recently been reported in England.

According to the Public Health England’s September 2020 report, between April and June 2020, there have been only 29 lab-confirmed IMD cases in England; this is in contrast to 121 lab-confirmed IMD cases reported during the same time period in 2019. This represents a 76% reduction in IMD cases compared with 2019 and is most likely due to the UK’s enforcement of social distancing and restrictions on travel to prevent further spread of Covid-19.  Among the IMD serogroups, type Y and type W experienced the largest percent decrease in IMD cases over the 2019 to 2020 time period (Figure 1).

GlobalData epidemiologists expect that the overall incidence (cases per 100,000 population) of IMD in the UK, as well as incidence within serogroups, will likely be lower than the current forecast estimates (Figure 2). More specifically, GlobalData epidemiologists estimate that the 2020 incidence of IMD will likely stay below 1.24 cases per 100,000 population. However, the expected reduction is likely temporary. Currently, sub-Saharan African countries do not have Covid-19 restrictions similar to the UK. It is likely that after the pandemic and with the resumption of tourism and travel to these regions, as well as large group settings, the incidence rate will return to 2019 levels.

Figure 1: Laboratory-Confirmed Incident Cases of invasive meningococcal disease by Serogroup in England, Men and Women, All Ages, N, April to June 2019 vs April to June 2020.

Credit: GlobalData.

Figure 2: Laboratory-Confirmed Incidence (cases per 100,000 population) of invasive meningococcal disease by Serogroup in the UK, Men and Women, All Ages, N, 2019–2029.

Credit: GlobalData.