Resurgence of meningitis cases in France, time to rethink vaccination strategy

vaccination strategy Meningococcal meningitis, potentially fatal, has experienced an “unprecedented resurgence” in France after the end of health measures introduced during Covid-19, the Pasteur Institute warned on Tuesday 14. It is calling for the vaccine to be expanded to include teenagers who are particularly affected.

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. In most cases, they are viral, but they can also be of bacterial origin: this is the case of meningococcal meningitis. Transmission occurs from person to person through close, long-term contact.

About one in ten people in the general population (but one in three teenagers) have meningococci without showing any symptoms of the disease. However, after infecting the respiratory tract, meningococci can spread through the body via the bloodstream.

High fever, severe headache, vomiting, stiff neck, photosensitivity, red or purple spots (purpura) are the main symptoms. This unpredictable and devastating disease can cause death in less than 24 hours without prompt treatment. With proper treatment, mortality remains at 10%. However, meningococcal meningitis can also leave more or less serious consequences: amputation, deafness, cognitive disorders, learning difficulties, etc.

Fewer cases during the Covid-19 epidemic

During the Covid-19 epidemic, barrier gestures such as wearing a mask and social distancing had positive consequences on respiratory infections, recalls the Pasteur Institute. This was the case for meningococcal meningitis, where the number of contaminations decreased by more than 75% in 2020 and 2021. However, the reference center was interested in the future, when protective measures will be relaxed.

Scientists carefully studied the development of the disease between 2015 and 2022 and observed a rapid recovery of bacterial activity. “Meningococcal meningitis experienced an unprecedented increase in the fall of 2022, while today, in the fall of 2023, the number of cases is higher than in the period that preceded the Covid-19 pandemic,” summarizes Samy Taha, one of the authors of the study. published last month in the “Journal of Infection and Public Health” and a researcher in the Department of Invasive Bacterial Infections at the Pasteur Institute.

“Never Reached” level.

If 298 cases were recorded between January and September 2019, 421 cases have already been recorded between January and September 2023, an increase of 36%, “although the winter peak has not yet occurred”, emphasizes Pasteur. The levels have “never been reached” in France, points out Muhamed-Kheir Taha, head of the National Meningococcal Reference Centre. According to the research institute, this has two main explanations: a decrease in overall immunity after the decline in the circulation of strains, but also a decrease in vaccination coverage, which fell by 20% for meningococcal C vaccination during the first birth, for example.

Bacteria are surrounded by different types of envelopes or capsules. In the case of meningococcus, the nature of these envelopes is indicated by letters. Today, in France only vaccination against meningococcal group C is mandatory, from 2018, from 2022 vaccination against meningococcal B is simply recommended for infants. Unlike some countries, such as the UK, it is not. population against groups Y and W. Since the end of the pandemic, however, the latter strains have been responsible for most meningitis.

“We think it’s time to rethink the current vaccination strategy,” says Muhamed-Kheir Taha. In particular, the researchers, who are currently working with the High Health Authority (HAS), recommend expanding the quadrivalent vaccine targeting meningococci groups A, C, Y and W to adolescents, the main healthy meningococcal carriers. coming months with the epidemic of seasonal influenza, which creates a “favorable context for the development of meningococcal bacteria”, especially by increasing circulation and exposure to respiratory pathogens.

Meningitis on the Rise in France: Rethinking Vaccination Strategies?

France is experiencing a resurgence of meningitis cases, raising concerns about the effectiveness of current vaccination strategies. This resurgence highlights the importance of staying informed about vaccination schedules and potentially re-evaluating approaches to ensure optimal public health protection.

Understanding Meningitis:

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites, with viral meningitis being the most common form.

The Current Situation in France:

The specific strain causing the rise in cases and the age groups most affected will be crucial factors in determining the need for adjustments to vaccination strategies. Here’s why a reevaluation might be warranted:

  • Waning Immunity: The effectiveness of certain meningitis vaccines might wane over time, prompting the need for booster shots.
  • New or Evolving Strains: The emergence of new strains or changes in existing strains might necessitate updated vaccines to provide targeted protection.
  • Vaccination Rates: Low vaccination rates in certain communities can create pockets of vulnerability, allowing the spread of meningitis.

Potential Strategies for Rethinking Vaccination:

  • Booster Shots: Including booster shots for specific age groups or at-risk populations could be a consideration.
  • New Vaccines: Developing and implementing vaccines targeting new or evolving strains could be crucial.
  • Improved Outreach: Public health campaigns promoting the importance of vaccination and addressing vaccine hesitancy are essential.

The Importance of Staying Informed:

  • Consult Your Doctor: Discuss your individual vaccination history and risk factors with your doctor to determine if you need any additional vaccinations.
  • Stay Updated on Public Health Information: Follow recommendations from public health authorities regarding the specific meningitis strain and any changes to vaccination schedules.

A Proactive Approach is Key:

By proactively addressing the rise in meningitis cases through potential adjustments to vaccination strategies, increased public awareness, and improved outreach, France can work towards better protecting its citizens from this serious illness.

Remember, this information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor for personalized guidance on vaccinations and meningitis prevention.

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