The CDC warns of an increase in bacterial diseases that can cause meningitis and even death

and Erika Edwards

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned on Thursday of an increase in unusual bacterial diseases that can cause meningitis and even death. In their notice to doctors they mentioned an increase in cases of a type of invasive meningococcal disease, mostly due to a specific strain of bacteria.

There were 422 cases reported in the U.S. last year, the most since 2014. There have already been 143 cases reported this year, meaning infections appear to be on track to surpass those in 2023, the CDC said. Most of last year's cases did not involve meningitis, but at least 17 people died.

Cases were disproportionately more common in adults ages 30 to 60, in black people and in people with HIV, according to the CDC, which explained to NBC News that last year they were detected in 20 states, including Texas. and Virginia, which have already warned of the increase.

The bacteria can cause a dangerous inflammation of the brain and spinal cord known as meningitis, with symptoms such as fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting.

It can also cause a bloodstream infection with symptoms such as chills, fatigue, cold hands and feet, rapid breathing, diarrhea, or, in later stages, a dark purple rash that does not go away or turn white when pressed. It can appear anywhere on the body.

The infection can be fought with antibiotics, but prompt treatment is essential. Symptoms of a bloodstream infection can “get worse quickly,” a CDC official said. It is estimated that between 10% and 15% of infected people die, and survivors sometimes suffer deafness or amputations.

There are also vaccines against meningococcal disease.

Health authorities recommend that all children receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against the growing strain, around the time they enter high school.

Because vaccine protection wanes, the CDC also recommends a booster dose at age 16.

Vaccines are also recommended for people at higher risk, such as those in a location affected by an outbreak, or those with HIV or other health problems.