An outbreak of meningococcal disease (MD) with severe morbidity and mortality was investigated in midwestern Brazil in order to identify control measures. A MD case was defined as isolation of Neisseria meningitidis, or detection of polysaccharide antigen in a sterile site, or presence of clinical purpura fulminans, or an epidemiological link with a laboratory-confirmed case-patient, between June and August 2008. In 8 out of 16 MD cases studied, serogroup C ST103 complex was identified. Five (31%) cases had neurological findings and five (31%) died. The attack rate was 12 cases/100 000 town residents and 60 cases/100 000 employees in a large local food-processing plant. We conducted a matched case-control study of eight primary laboratory-confirmed cases (1:4). Factors associated with illness in single variable analysis were work at the processing plant [matched odds ratio (mOR) 22, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2·3–207·7, P<0·01], and residing <1 year in Rio Verde (mOR 7, 95% CI 1·11–43·9, P<0·02). Mass vaccination (>10 000 plant employees) stopped propagation in the plant, but not in the larger community.