The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that all patients aged between 14 and 18 are vaccinated against meningococcal group W (MenW) disease.
The prevalence of MenW is rising. A recent report from PHE showed a continuing rise in cases of MenW since 2009. A PHE spokesperson has also said that while the number of MenW cases and overall risk remains very low, there has been an increase of 117 cases in 2014.
Andrew Pollard, chair of the JCVI, said: 'We have seen an increase in MenW cases this winter caused by a highly aggressive strain of the bug. We reviewed the outbreak in detail at JCVI and concluded that this increase was likely to continue in future years unless action is taken. We have therefore advised the DH to implement a vaccination programme for teenagers as soon as possible which we believe will have a substantial impact on the disease and protect the public's health.'
The DH has announced that it has accepted the JCVI's recommendations and is now planning the implementation of a combined immunisation programme, including the MenW disease.
Dr Shamez Ladhani, a paediatric infectious disease consultant at PHE, said: 'It's crucial that we all remain alert to the signs and symptoms of the disease and seek urgent medical attention if there is any concern. The disease develops rapidly and early symptoms can include: headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet. Be aware of all signs and symptoms - and don't wait for a rash to develop before seeking urgent medical attention.'
PHE is also urging health professionals to be mindful of the increase in MenW disease and maintain a high index of suspicion across all age groups. Early recognition and effective treatment with antibiotics for patients with invasive MenW disease can be life-saving.