Meningococcal disease in the Waikato
It is important to understand what meningococcal disease / meningitis is and know the signs and symptoms.
- Meningococcal disease can lead to serious infections including meningitis (inflammation of the brain membranes) and septicaemia (blood poisoning).
- Common symptoms of meningococcal disease include sudden fever, a high fever, headache, sleepiness, joint and muscle pains. There can also be other more specific symptoms, such as a stiff neck, vomiting, refusal to feed (in infants), dislike of bright lights, or a rash consisting of reddish-purple pin-prick spots or bruises. If you have these symptoms, you need to seek medical attention urgently.
- Those most at risk are babies and young children under 5 years, teenagers and young adults, people with weakened immune systems, people living in shared accommodation such as halls of residence (university), boarding school and hostels, and those living in overcrowded housing.
- Meningococcal disease is treated with antibiotics. It cannot be treated at home – it’s important to seek medical help immediately, as early treatment is very important.
- There is a vaccine against meningococcal types A, C, Y and W and also a vaccine against type B. Please talk to your doctor or nurse about what vaccines are available and the cost of being vaccinated. Vaccines are free for:
- Some people who are seen as being at high risk for developing the disease (such as people with impaired immune systems)
- From December 2019, vaccines for A, C, W, and Y will be available for young people living in close living situations aged between 13 and 25.
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In the Waikato region
In the Waikato region, we have had one recent death from meningococcal disease (in March 2019). There have been no other deaths from meningococcal disease in the past five years. There have been a low number of non-fatal cases.
Unlike some diseases, the risk of catching meningococcal disease from attending an event is low, even if there was an infectious person there at the same time.
You need close contact with an infectious person (such as living in the same household or close kissing) to be considered at risk. The bacteria which cause meningitis/meningococcal disease is quite common however, and many people carry the bug without ever getting sick themselves. They can still pass it on to others, so it is important to always be on the alert for symptoms in your whānau.
- See a doctor urgently if you are concerned
- Or call Healthline free on 0800 611 116 any hour of the day or night.