The 2009 meningitis season in Niger was characterized by an early onset, beginning in the very first weeks of the year and peaking from the 12th to the 15th week with 5655 clinical cases over the 4 weeks. From 1 January 2009 to 28 June 2009 (week 26), a total of 13 733 clinical cases of meningitis were reported to the national epidemiological surveillance system with a case-fatality rate of 4·2%. During the season 25 of the 42 health districts reached the epidemic threshold and 11 the alert threshold. Reactive mass vaccination campaigns involving a total of 5 166 741 doses of the polysaccharide meningococcal bivalent (A+C) vaccine progressively controlled the outbreak in most parts of the country. A total of 3755 cerebrospinal fluid samples representing 28·1% of the suspected meningitis cases were analysed. Serogroup A meningococci were the causative agent in 97·5% of the meningococcal cases. Multi-locus sequence typing of 26 meningococal serogroup A strains showed 25 sequence type (ST)7 and one ST2859, both sequence types belonging to the ST5 clonal complex (CC5) of subgroup III. This is the largest epidemic observed in Niger since those of 1995–1996 (59 948 notified cases) and 2000 (14 633 notified cases).