Killer meningococcal outbreak in Virginia claims 5 lives as 27 infected – 10 signs you must know

Health officials in Virginia have declared a statewide outbreak of meningococcal disease after infecting 27 people and killing five.

The number of cases is three times higher than expected for this time of year, putting the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) on high alert.

27 cases of fatal meningococcal disease have been detected in Virginia


27 cases of fatal meningococcal disease have been detected in VirginiaPhoto credit: Getty

Meningococcal disease is the collective name for diseases caused by meningococci meningococci bacteria, loud meningitis now.

Rarely, it can cause meningitis — an infection of the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord — but it can also lead to septicemia, also known as blood poisoning. This happens when disease-carrying bacteria enter the bloodstream.

These two infections can occur individually or together, which is more common.

In an alert issued last week, the VDH announced it had caused 27 cases of meningococcal disease meningococci Type Y has been reported since June 2022.

Cases surged in western Virginia, leading to the announcement of a regional outbreak in September last year.

But reports of the deadly infection have now spread to central and southwest Virginia, resulting in five patients dying from complications of the disease, VDH wrote.

Most of the 27 patients were black or African American adults between the ages of 30 and 60, and all but one were unvaccinated meningococci Enter Y.

The Department of Health added, “The strain associated with this outbreak is known to be more widespread in the United States.”

In the UK there are five main meningococcal strains that commonly cause disease in the UK: MenA, MenB, MenC, MenW, MenY.

MenB is behind most cases in the UK, according to Meningitis Now.

The charity said around 10 percent of the population actually carries meningococcal bacteria in their throat or nose at any given time, which doesn’t usually cause harm — in fact, they can help build immunity.

But occasionally, the bacteria can defeat the body’s defenses and cause an infection.

Infants and young children are most at risk, followed by teenagers and adolescents.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease can appear flu-like at first and quickly get worse. It can be treated with antibiotics, but it is imperative that anyone exhibiting these symptoms be rushed to the hospital.

If you experience any of the following signs, do not hesitate to seek treatment:

  1. fever and fatigue
  2. Headache
  3. nausea and vomiting
  4. stiffness of the neck
  5. Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  6. Rapid breathing
  7. loss of appetite
  8. Muscle aches
  9. irritability and confusion
  10. seizures

Symptoms of meningococcal septicemia can vary slightly, including:

  • Fever
  • chills
  • nausea
  • Vomit
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold hands and feet
  • body aches
  • A dark purple rash on the skin

How can I protect myself from meningococcal disease?

The best protection against meningococcal disease is vaccination.

According to NHS guidance, vaccines that can protect against certain causes of meningitis include:

  • MenB vaccine – is offered to babies at eight weeks of age, followed by a second dose at 16 weeks and a booster shot at one year
  • 6-in-1 vaccine – offered for babies at eight, twelfth and sixteen weeks
  • Pneumococcal vaccine – two doses for babies aged 12 weeks and 1 year and a single dose for adults aged 65 and over
  • Hib/MenC vaccine – offered to babies as young as one year old
  • MMR vaccine – is offered to babies aged 1 year and a second dose at 3 years and 4 months
  • MenACWY vaccine – offered to teenagers, seniors and “freshmen” entering university for the first time

The bacteria that cause the infection spread from person to person through kissing, coughing, and sneezing, or by sharing cups, water bottles, eating utensils, and cigarettes.

VDH recommended you:

  • Do not give out personal items such as e-cigarettes, lipsticks or toothbrushes
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Avoid close contact with sick people

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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