But this has not translated into cases confirmed in the laboratory, the Public Health Laboratory Service said yesterday, putting the increase down to greater awareness among doctors of the dangers of the disease.
Acute notified cases reached 2,700 in 1996 compared with 2,300 in 1995 - an increase of around 17 per cent.
The National Meningitis Trust said it was disappointed with the "moderate increase" particularly as the number of notified cases had been below 2,000 in 1994.
"Much of the decrease in cases between 1992 and 1994 was due to the success of the Hib vaccine for the under-fours which was introduced in 1992." said Ray Thompson of the trust. "The effects of this have now worked through the figures - all of which serves to illustrate the vital importance of vaccine development.
"The trust has always given priority to the search for vaccines in its funding policy and continues to rely on the generosity of the public, and increasingly industry and commerce, to keep its selected research projects up to speed."
But a spokeswoman for the Public Health Laboratory Service said that the increase in cases could actually be a good sign because it meant that doctors were becoming more aware of the symptoms of meningitis.
Meningitis is a "notifiable" diseases whereby doctors have a statutory duty to alert the local authority when cases occur.
The number of cases confirmed by the laboratory between 1 July 1995 and 4 February 1996 was 998 but this dropped to 953 between 1 July 1996 and 4 February 1997.Reuse content