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Bacterial meningitis cases hit record low

Cases of bacterial meningitis in children are at a record low in the UK, according to a new government report.

The report by the Department of Health’s director of immunisation, Professor David Salisbury, highlighted the success of childhood vaccines against the three main strands of bacterial meningitis.

The Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b) vaccine, introduced in 1992, has reduced cases of this meningitis causing disease by 99%, from around 800 cases a year to a record low of 12 cases in 2008 in children under five.

The Meningitis C vaccine, introduced in 1999, has reduced deaths from this disease from as many as 79 to an average of less than one death a year.

While the pneumococcal vaccine, introduced in 2007, is estimated to have prevented over 900 serious cases, saving over 50 lives.

Professor Salisbury said: ‘Thanks to our immunisation programme, thousand of children, young people and their families have been-and will continue to be spared the misery of meningitis, polio, measles, and even cervical cancer.’

It is estimated that in the next three years a vaccination against the remaining main cause of bacterial meningitis, group B meningococcal disease, will be developed. The bacterial form of meningitis is fatal in one in ten cases and requires urgent treatment.

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