Public health action and mass chemoprophylaxis in response to a small meningococcal infection outbreak at a nursery in the West Midlands, England

Antony Stewart*, Nic Coetzee, Elizabeth Knapper, Subhadra Rajanaidu, Zafar Iqbal, Harsh Duggal

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Meningococcal infection is fatal in 10% of cases, and age-specific attack rates are highest in infancy. A nursery outbreak was declared just before a bank holiday weekend in August 2010, when two children attending the same nursery were confirmed to have meningococcal infection. Although such outbreaks are rare, they generate considerable public alarm and are challenging to manage and control. This report describes the investigation and public health response to the outbreak. Results: Both cases had relatively mild disease and were confirmed as having serogroup B infection. Chemoprophylaxis and advice were given to most of the 146 children and 30 staff at the nursery. Within 28 hours of declaring the outbreak, over 95% of parents received information, advice and prescriptions for their children. GPs were also given information and the after-hours service provided continuity over the weekend. No further cases were identified and the outbreak was closed four weeks after being declared. Conclusions: Considerable logistical challenges were involved in providing timely advice and chemoprophylaxis to the entire nursery and staff one day before a bank holiday weekend. The speed of the public health response and implementation of preventive measures was crucial in providing assurance to parents and staff, and reducing their anxiety. The decision to provide on-site prescribing at the nursery (coupled with information sessions and individual counselling) proved to be a key implementation-success factor. Effective coordination and management by the outbreak control team was able to rapidly provide leadership, delegate tasks, identify gaps, allocate resources and ensure a proactive media response. A number of useful lessons were learnt and recommendations were made for future local practice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)104-109
    Number of pages6
    JournalPerspectives in Public Health
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


    • chemoprophylaxis
    • infection
    • meningococcal
    • outbreak management
    • public health response


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