Meningococcal Disease Outbreak Response


The Virginia Department of Health is responding to a community outbreak of meningococcal disease type Y in the eastern region of Virginia. The first case was detected in June 2022, and the outbreak was declared in September 2022. The majority of case-patients are Black or African American residents of Hampton Roads between 30-60 years of age.

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The bacteria are spread from person to person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions. An infected person can spread the bacteria by kissing, coughing or sneezing directly into the face of others, or sharing cups, water bottles, eating utensils, cigarettes, lipstick, or toothbrushes.

Most people exposed to this bacteria do not become ill. A small proportion of infected people can develop a serious form of illness, such as meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or a bloodstream infection (septicemia). 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 onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, and light sensitivity.
  • Bloodstream infection: fever, chills, 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.

Meningococcal Vaccination

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) can provide protection against meningococcal disease type Y. We encourage parents and healthcare providers to ensure adolescents receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine on schedule at 11 or 12 years of age, with a booster dose at 16. If you are a part of a group that is considered high-risk for meningococcal disease, you should speak to your healthcare provider to ensure you are up to date on the meningococcal conjugate vaccine.

High-risk groups include:

  • People living with HIV.
  • Immunocompromised people:
    • Those whose spleen is damaged or removed, including people with sickle cell disease.
    • Anyone with a rare immune condition called "complement deficiency" or anyone taking a type of drug called a "complement inhibitor".