Meningococcal Disease Outbreak Response


The Virginia Department of Health is responding to a statewide outbreak of meningococcal disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis serogroup Y. The first case was reported in June 2022, and the outbreak was first declared in Virginia's Eastern health region in September 2022. The same strain has since been detected in the Central, Southwest, and Northern regions of Virginia.

On March 28, 2024, CDC issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory alerting healthcare providers of an increase in meningococcal disease, mainly due to Neisseria meningitidis serogroup Y, sequence type (ST) 1466, the same strain associated with Virginia's outbreak.

Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best protection against meningococcal disease. 

Outbreak Cases by Region

Since June 2022, there have been 36 confirmed cases of meningococcal disease associated with this outbreak, including 7 deaths.† A common risk factor has not been determined; however, genetic sequencing of available specimens has confirmed the cases are highly genetically related.

Region* Cases†
Central 3
Eastern 25
Northern 2
Northwest 0
Southwest 6
Total 36

* The following local health districts have reported at least one outbreak-associated case of meningococcal disease: Alleghany, Central Virginia, Fairfax, Hampton, Henrico, Norfolk, Peninsula, Pittsylvania/Danville, Portsmouth, Roanoke, Southside, Virginia Beach, and Western Tidewater.

† As of: 4/2/24, Data are updated monthly (first Tuesday). Data are preliminary and subject to change. VDH uses whole genome sequencing to confirm outbreak-associated cases. The results are available about 30-60 days after CDC receives the specimen. Cases are defined using the national meningococcal disease case definition.

What You Should Do

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) can provide protection against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup Y. Parents and healthcare providers should make sure that adolescents and teens receive the required meningococcal conjugate vaccine on schedule at 11-12 years of age, with a booster dose at 16 years of age. Talk to your healthcare provider or local health department if you have questions about your options for accessing meningococcal vaccine. 

People at increased risk for meningococcal disease should make sure they are up to date on the MenACWY vaccine. A MenACWY booster is recommended every five years for people at increased risk due to medical conditions. 

This includes:

  • People with HIV.
  • Anyone whose spleen is damaged or removed, including people with sickle cell disease.
  • Anyone with an immune condition called complement deficiency or anyone taking a type of drug called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®).

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a rare, but serious illness caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The two most common types of meningococcal infections are infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (called meningitis), and bloodstream infections (septicemia). Both of these types of infections are very serious and can be deadly in a matter of hours.  

The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease are spread by exchanging respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit) during close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact, especially if living in the same household. People do not catch the bacteria through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been. 

Most people exposed to N. meningitidis do not become ill and are called "carriers". A small proportion of infected people can develop serious illness. Symptoms can first appear flu-like and quickly become more severe. 

You should not delay seeking care if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Meningitis: sudden fever, headache, stiff neck, and light sensitivity.
  • Bloodstream infection: sudden fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Symptoms can differ in infants and may include:

  • Inactivity, irritability, vomiting, poor feeding, or a bulging soft spot on their head.

Page last updated 04/04/2024.