CDC warns of invasive bacterial outbreak amid spike in cases and fatality rates: 'Rare but severe'


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An invasive bacterial infection is on the rise in the U.S., according to an alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cases of meningococcal disease, mainly caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, reached 422 last year, the highest annual number of cases reported since 2014, the agency stated in the alert.

So far this year, 143 cases have been reported to the CDC (as of March 25), which is 62 more than the number reported at the same time last year.


The invasive strain that is causing most of the cases — serogroup Y ST-1466 — primarily affects adults between ages 30 and 60 (65% of cases), the CDC said in its report. Also affected are Black or African American people (63%) and people with HIV (15%), the CDC said.

This strain also appears to have a higher fatality rate than strains from previous years.

An invasive bacterial infection is on the rise in the U.S., according to an alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (iStock)

Of 94 patients, 17 of them died from the infection, which is a fatality rate of 18%. 

Between 2017 and 2021, the fatality rate was 11%.

The typical fatality rate ranges from 10% to 15%, even with antibiotic treatment, per the CDC.


One in five survivors can experience long-term disabilities such as deafness, brain damage, limb loss or other nervous system problems.

“I think this is a concern, especially because of the steep rise in cases all of a sudden and because this particular strain has had a higher case fatality than in previous increases of this disease,” Dr. Barbara Bawer, a primary care physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Fox News Digital.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease

Described by the CDC as a “rare but severe illness,” meningococcal disease most commonly causes symptoms of meningitis, including fever, stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or altered mental status.

older sick man

Meningococcal disease most commonly causes symptoms of meningitis, including fever, stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or altered mental status. (iStock)

It can also cause meningococcal bloodstream infection, which is marked by fever and chills, vomiting, fatigue, vomiting, cold hands and feet, severe aches and pains, diarrhea, rapid breathing or a dark purple rash, the CDC notes. 

Transmission and treatment

Meningitis infections can spread though close contact with someone who has meningococcal disease, Bawer noted — “generally, through things like coughing or kissing, but it can also spread by being in the same household or room for extended periods of time with an individual who is infected.”


Those who have symptoms of the disease should see their primary care physician immediately, according to the doctor.

As symptoms tend to progress quickly and can be life-threatening, it is essential that the patient receives antibiotics immediately.

“It can become fatal or dangerous within hours for any individual.”

“It can become fatal or dangerous very quickly — within hours — for any individual, especially if antibiotics are not initiated in a timely manner,” Bawer warned. “Even with antibiotics, meningitis can be fatal.”

She added, “This is often due to misdiagnosis, because meningitis can mimic many other illnesses.”

Infection prevention

Most cases of meningococcal disease worldwide are caused by six variations of the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria — A, B, C, W, X and Y.

In the U.S., the most common variations are B, C, W and Y.

There are vaccines available to protect against types A, C, W and Y (the MenACWY vaccine) and type B (MenB vaccine), according to the CDC.

woman doc

Those who have symptoms of meningococcal disease should see their primary care physician immediately, doctors advise. (iStock)

“MenACWY vaccines are routinely recommended for adolescents and for people with other risk factors or underlying medical conditions, including HIV,” the CDC stated in the alert.

To reduce risk, Bawer recommends that people get vaccinated with the current meningitis vaccine as recommended by the CDC and avoid being in very closed-in spaces with others as much as possible. 


“If you know of someone who has meningitis in your household or you’ve come in contact with their oral secretions (i.e., you kissed them), then you should get preventative antibiotics,” the doctor told Fox News Digital. 


This is even more important for those who are immune-compromised or who are on medications that decrease the immune system, Bawer added.

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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