Meningococcal W Disease

This page contains information regarding Meningococcal W disease for the public and health professionals.

Page last updated: 26 September 2018

Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon but very serious infection that occurs when the meningococcal bacteria ‘invades’ the body from the throat or nose. It usually appears as meningitis or sepsis. You can find more information on Meningococcal disease, including what symptoms to look out for on the Immunise Australia website.

Outbreak in Central Australia

An outbreak of Meningococcal W (MenW) occurred in Central Australia from September to December 2017, which affected parts of the Northern Territory (NT), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA) and Western Australia (WA).

This outbreak mostly affected young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote Central Australian communities.

In response to this outbreak, four states and territories started meningococcal ACWY vaccination programs for individuals in affected communities. This vaccine protects against meningococcal types A, C, W and Y. These vaccination programs are being run by each state and territory, and are time limited.

Further information on what each state is doing can be found in the links below:

Meningococcal disease in Australia

Overall, the national incidence of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in Australia is low. From 2003 to 2013, there was a decrease in the number of IMD notifications reported in Australia, following the introduction, in 2003, of the meningococcal C (MenC) vaccine onto the National Immunisation Program (NIP). However, since 2014 notifications of IMD have increased, with numbers during 2017 the highest since 2006. The four most common meningococcal types in Australia are B, C, W and Y. There are vaccines available to protect against these types in Australia.

In response to the rise in the number of MenW cases, six states have started time limited, state-based, meningococcal ACWY vaccination programs which commenced in 2017 and early 2018. This vaccine will protect against meningococcal types A, C, W and Y. The programs target adolescents aged 15-19 years, with NSW targeting 17-18 year olds.

More information on what each state is doing, and if you are eligible for a free vaccination, can be found in the links below:

Quarterly cases and annual rate of IMD, Australia, 1 January 2008 to 30 June 2018 by serogroup

Figure 1. Quarterly cases and annual rate of IMD, Australia, 1 January 2008 to 30 June 2018 by serogroup


  • #Data from the NNDSS with a diagnosis date up until of 30 June 2018. Data were extracted on 01 August 2018.
  • *NG includes where meningococcal isolates could not be identified (‘not groupable’), other isolates not grouped and where serogroup was not known.

Meningococcal W Disease - Information

More information / useful links

Invasive Meningococcal Disease Quarterly Reports

The quarterly reports document trends in notified cases of IMD occurring in Australia.

Invasive Meningococcal W Disease National Surveillance Reports

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017