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99% drop in meningitis C cases

Figures have revealed a 99% fall in meningitis C cases over the past 10 years following a childhood vaccination initiative.

England and Wales recorded only 13 cases of the disease in 2008/09, compared with 955 in 1998/99, the data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) shows.

Introduced in 1999, the jab was aimed at slashing the approximately 1,000 cases of meningitis C recorded in England and Wales per year at the time.

Four out of 10 cases of meningitis a decade ago were type C and caused more than 100 deaths annually.

Dr Mary Ramsay, HPA immunisation expert, described the jab's 10th anniversary as "a significant milestone".

She said: "Group C meningococcal infection has virtually disappeared from the UK, with only a handful of cases reported since the beginning of the year.

"Our surveillance has shown parents have great faith in this vaccine and the high uptake of the vaccine has been a major factor in reducing the number of cases of meningitis C.

"Since January, we have received only six reports of invasive group C meningitis."

HPA's chief executive Justin McCracken added: "Thanks to the Department of Health's commitment to introducing the vaccine and the hard work of NHS staff in delivering it, this vaccine has provided essential protection against this serious disease."

No vaccine is available for meningitis B, which is the current cause of nearly 90% of cases in Britain.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Health Protection Agency