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The BBC's Health Correspondent, James Westhead
"We're witnessing the disappearance of a major disease"
 real 56k

Meningitis Research Foundation, Linda Glenny
"It is certainly very good news"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 01:48 GMT
Brain disease 'wiped out'
Vaccination
Mass vaccination began just over a year ago
The killer brain disease meningitis C has been almost wiped out, the government has announced.

As many as 50 lives, mainly children, may have been saved as a result.

A vast drop in the number of cases of the potentially lethal disease has been attributed to the success of the government's 20m vaccination policy.

Meningitis C accounts for 40% of cases of the disease, with 1,530 cases in 1998, resulting in 150 deaths.

Figures revealed by the Department of Health show that in the last six months there was a drop of 90% in cases among babies under one year old and among the 15-17 year old age group.

These two groups were the first to be immunised.


This is a wonderful achievement and has dealt a hammer blow to Meningitis C

Professor Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer
Across all age groups the number of meningitis C cases has fallen by 75%.

Just six babies under a year old contracted the disease in 2000 compared with 32 in 1999 - a reduction of 82%.

It is estimated that 500 cases of Group C meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia have been prevented since the start of the programme, and 50 deaths have been avoided.

Dr George Kassianos, immunisation spokesman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "We have created a miracle here.

"To achieve these results in only a year will be the envy of the world.

"No other country could have achieved it. The department had the vision to act and was the first in the world to do so.

Threat remains

"This is a very impressive result, which is due to the hard work, co-operation and co-ordination among the doctors, the Department of Health, the manufacturers and the distributors."

The policy of mass vaccination began in November 1999, focusing initially on babies and older teenagers as the greatest danger group, and then being extended to all under-18s.

Since then 18 million vaccines have been given across the ages.

New-born babies will be the only group vaccinated in future as all other children should have been treated.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson said: "This is a wonderful achievement and has dealt a hammer blow to Meningitis C - an extremely serious illness if not prevented by the measures we have taken.

"I urge any parent of children and young people under 18 not yet vaccinated to take advantage of the safe and effective protection the vaccine offers and make an appointment to see the GP.

"There is no need for any child to go unprotected."

The Department of Health has also warned parents of the potential threat of meningitis B, which is the most common form of the disease and for which there is no vaccine immediately available.

Julia Warren, spokeswoman for the Meningitis Research Foundation, said the virtual wiping out of meningitis C was "wonderful news".

"We are absolutely delighted," she said. "The only thing that we would say is that we still have a long way to go in protecting babies, children and young people in this country.

"Everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms of the disease because there are other forms of meningitis and septicaemia for which there are no vaccines available."

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See also:

03 Jan 01 | Health
Q&A: Meningitis vaccine success
03 Sep 00 | Health
Meningitis cut by 85%
27 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Deaths spark meningitis jab fears
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