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In North America, meningococcal disease occurs at a rate of I case per 100000 population per year, producing 2725 cases notified in the US in 1998 and 155 laboratory confirmed cases in Canada in the same year. A majority of these cases occur in the winter season and in early childhood, with a case fatality rate of approximately 10%. There has been an increase in the proportion of cases due to serogroup Y meningococci over the past decade: in 1995-98 in the US, 33% of cases were due to serogroup B, 28% were due to serogroup C and 34% were due to serogroup Y; in Canada in 1995-96, 47% of cases were due to serogroup B, 40% were due to serogroup C and 10% were due to serogroup Y. Outbreaks due to serogroup C were more common in the 1990s in the US and a number of outbreaks have occurred in Canada due to organisms from the hypervirulent ET-37 complex. College freshmen in the US in dormitories were found to be at an increased risk of disease. In addition, over the past 10 years, an outbreak of serogroup B disease occurred in the Pacific North-west of the US, with a fourfold increased rate of disease in that region. The explanations for these changes in epidemiology are unknown, but probably reflect the appearance of hypervirulent clones of meningococci and/or changing levels of population immunity. Meningococcal serogroup C polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccines have been introduced recently in the UK, seem efficacious and offer the potential to reduce the burden of disease in the US and Canada too. Because serogroups other than serogroup C are prevalent in North America, a combination polysaccharide-protein vaccine, including C, Y and possibly W135 serogroups, would be attractive for this population. Although not currently an issue in industrialized nations, inclusion of serogroup A conjugates in any future vaccine policy would be an important decision in driving global prevention of meningococcal disease. A meningococcal conjugate vaccine against serogroup C was licensed in Canada in April 2001.


Journal article


J Paediatr Child Health

Publication Date





S20 - S27


Adolescent, Adult, Age Distribution, Aged, Canada, Child, Child, Preschool, Female, Humans, Immunization Programs, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Male, Meningococcal Infections, Meningococcal Vaccines, Middle Aged, Neisseria meningitidis, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Serotyping, United States