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Bacterial Meningitis Rates Have Decreased in the United States

Incidence decreased by 31 percent from 1998-1999 to 2006-2007, but no change in fatality rate

WEDNESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of bacterial meningitis in the United States has decreased since 1998, but there has been no change in the fatality rate, according to a study published in the May 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Michael C. Thigpen, M.D., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed trends in the incidence of bacterial meningitis from 1998 to 2007. During the study period, approximately 17.4 million people with a clinical diagnosis of meningitis were examined for the presence of Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, group B streptococcus (GBS), Listeria monocytogenes, or Neisseria meningitidis in their cerebrospinal fluid or other sterile sites.

The investigators identified 466 deaths among 3,155 subjects identified with bacterial meningitis and with available outcome data. The incidence of bacterial meningitis per 100,000 population decreased by 31 percent from two cases in 1998-1999 to 1.38 cases in 2006-2007. There was an increase in the average age of patients from 30.3 years in 1998-1999 to 41.9 years in 2006-2007. No significant change was seen in the case fatality rates. Of the 1,670 cases during 2003 to 2007, the infective species identified in order of predominance were: Streptococcus pneumoniae, GBS, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae, and Listeria monocytogenes. Between 2003 and 2007, an estimated 4,100 cases and 500 deaths occurred annually due to bacterial meningitis in the United States.

"The rates of bacterial meningitis have decreased since 1998, but the disease still often results in death," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

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