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Meningococcal case on Cape

25 January 2019

Health authorities are managing a case of meningococcal disease at Lockhart River on Cape York Peninsula.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Tony Brown said the patient currently was undergoing treatment in hospital.

“Due to patient confidentiality, we are unable to comment more specifically on the case,’’ he said.

Dr Brown said the health service was working with and being supported by Tropical Public Health Services Cairns to undertake contact tracing of close household-type contacts in accordance with national public health guidelines.

“The best protection against meningococcal disease is vaccination and we are urging everyone to ensure they, their children and young people are up to date with their vaccinations,’’ he said.

“A free vaccine is available for all young people – for Indigenous people aged from 1–19 years and for non – Indigenous aged 15–19 years.

“The vaccine is available through the school immunisation program for Year 10 students. Other ages can obtain the vaccine through their local GP, primary health care clinic or other vaccine service providers.

“This protects against the A, C, W and Y strains of the disease.’’

Dr Brown said meningococcal ACWY vaccine was also funded in the National Immunisation Program for children at 12 months of age.

“Meningococcal disease is a serious blood and brain sickness that can lead to death,’’ he said.

“At any given time, meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly at the back of the throat or in the nose in about 10 per cent of people.

“It is not easy to catch meningococcal disease. The bacteria can be spread via droplets from the nose or throat during coughing and sneezing.

“However, close and prolonged contact with a person who has the bacteria in their nose or throat is usually needed for this to occur.

“Most people who have these bacteria remain quite well.

“Sometimes however, for reasons that are unclear, the meningococcal bacteria invade the body to cause meningococcal disease.

“After exposure to the bacteria, it usually takes from three to four days to become ill, although sometimes it can be as little as one day or as long as 10 days.

“Symptoms can include vomiting, fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, joint pain or a rash of red-purple spots or bruises.

“Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.

“Meningococcal disease can lead to death or long-term health issues including limb deformity, deafness, epilepsy and possible loss of brain function.

“About 10 per cent of meningococcal cases are fatal.’’

Dr Brown said there were 13 types of meningococcal disease but the types that most commonly caused disease worldwide were A, B, C, W and Y.

The current case of meningococcal disease is the first for the Torres and Cape HHS since 2015.

Visit Meningococcal disease webpage for more information

Last updated: 15 February 2019