Meningococcal death

Meningococcal death

A recent death from meningococcal disease at Royal Hobart Hospital has raised community concerns.

Tests confirmed the 21 year-old man from the upper Derwent Valley had meningococcal infection (W135 strain). This is the third case of this strain in Tasmania this year. There appears to be no connections between the cases. We have recommended the meningococcal vaccine which protects against W135 to the closest contacts of the case. They have also been counselled and provided with clearance antibiotics.

 

Meningococcal disease in Tasmania

There have been nine cases of meningococcal infection in Tasmania in 2011. The number of confirmed meningococcal cases peaked in 2003, with 26 cases. There is usually a seasonal increase in the winter to early spring months. In the past decade, there have been about 130 cases of meningococcal disease, and 10 deaths. Most of these occurred prior to 2005.

mening-graph-2

 

Prevention

The introduction of a routine vaccine in childhood against group C meningococcal infection since 2003 has greatly reduced the number of cases.  The uptake of the group C meningococcal vaccine at one year of age is excellent in Tasmania. At August 2011, more than 93 per cent of children were vaccinated. Vaccination is delivered through GPs or councils and is free for children at one year of age. This protects against group C meningococcal only.

There are also vaccines that cover several strains of meningococcus, including W135. These are recommended for people at high risk of meningococcal disease, such as travellers and close contacts of confirmed cases of some strains of meningococcal disease.

 

Symptoms

Early symptoms of meningococcal disease include headaches, neck stiffness, fever, drowsiness, nausea and skin rash.

The germ is spread in large droplets that are shed from the nose or throat. Close and prolonged contact with a carrier is usually required for the germ to spread to other people. Illness after contact with the germ is rare, but may be life threatening.

Young children under five years of age and young adults (15–24 years of age) are at highest risk of acquiring the disease.

Cigarette smoking can increase the risk of developing meningococcal disease fourfold.

All Tasmanians should remain vigilant for signs of the infection. If anyone is concerned, they should see their doctor.

 

Last updated: 12 September 2011