Influenza A and meningococcal disease

Lancet. 1991 Aug 31;338(8766):554-7. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)91112-8.


There are several anecdotal accounts of the association between outbreaks of influenza and meningococcal disease. The exceptional increase in the number of cases of meningococcal infection 2 weeks after an influenza A outbreak in England and Wales during November and December, 1989, provided an opportunity to investigate the relation between the two events. Patients with meningococcal disease in December, 1989, were more likely than age-matched controls to show serological evidence of recent influenza A infection (odds ratio 3.9, 95% Cl 1.2-13.9). The most likely explanation for the association is immune suppression induced by influenza A, though a lowering of mucosal resistance to meningococcal invasion may also be a factor. Public health authorities should be aware of the association and should be prepared to alert medical practitioners and the public to the increased risk of meningococcal disease when influenza A outbreaks occur.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis*
  • Child
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / classification
  • Influenza A virus / immunology*
  • Influenza, Human / complications
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human / immunology
  • Influenza, Human / microbiology*
  • Meningococcal Infections / complications
  • Meningococcal Infections / epidemiology
  • Meningococcal Infections / immunology
  • Meningococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wales / epidemiology


  • Antibodies, Viral