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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Vaccine cuts meningitis cases by 80%
The introduction of a vaccine for Meningitis C has led to a massive fall in cases
The introduction of a vaccine for Meningitis C has led to a massive fall in cases
The number of cases of the deadly brain disease meningitis C have been slashed by the introduction of a vaccine, experts say.

Scientists at the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) annual scientific conference in Warwick were due to announce on Tuesday that cases have dropped by 80%.

There were just 142 cases amongst under 20s in the year ending in June 2000, compared to 700 in the year to June 1999.

The PHLS figures echo results published in January which showed a 90% fall in the number of cases in babies under one year old, and amongst 15 - 17 years old - the first two groups to be vaccinated.


We have seen dramatic reductions in cases of the disease

Dr Mary Ramsay, PHLS
Britain was the first country to introduce the vaccine.

Reductions

Dr Mary Ramsay of the PHLS immunisation division, said, "Since the new vaccine against group C meningococcal disease was first introduced in November 1999, we have seen dramatic reductions in cases of the disease amongst those age groups who have been vaccinated.

"As well as demonstrating that the vaccine is very effective, our surveillance shows that the vaccine also has an excellent safety record. "

But she said it was still important for people to remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms of the disease.

There are three strains of meningococcal meningitis, A, B, and C.

Vaccines are available for both type C and type A.

Meningitis C accounts for around 40% of cases.

Scientists are still working on a vaccine for meningitis B, but it is years away from being publicly available.

Rash

Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain lining and is mostly caused by bacteria and viruses.

A stiff neck and a purplish rash are key signs of the disease.

If meningococcal meningitis is caught early, it can be treated with antibiotics, but it is important to catch the disease early.

The majority of patients survive, but experts think around an eighth of patients suffer after-effects.

These include brain damage, loss of sight, hearing impairments, arthritis, fits, loss of balance, depression and fatigue. Most of the after-effects disappear after a year.

See also:

03 Jan 01 | Health
Brain disease 'wiped out'
03 Sep 00 | Health
Meningitis cut by 85%
03 Jan 01 | Health
Q&A: Meningitis vaccine success
31 Jan 00 | Health
The meningitis files
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