There have been two cases of meningococcal disease in the MidCentral DHB area over the last fortnight (a total of three this year), including one death, Medical Officer of Health Dr Rob Weir said.
Both cases were under 20 years of age. There is no apparent connection between the two cases or with the three recent cases in Hawke’s Bay. The Public Health Service has provided antibiotic prophylaxis to close contacts of both cases.
Dr Weir said: “There have been higher levels of the disease in New Zealand since mid-August than has been experienced in recent years.”
“Meningococcal disease is caused when bacteria living in the nose or throat enter the bloodstream. This can cause meningitis or blood poisoning.”
“The bug is spread through close contact, such as living in the same household, and kissing.”
Meningococcal disease is more common in winter and spring.
Dr Weir said: “You can help stop meningococcal disease from spreading by covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Good hand washing is also very important.
“Meningococcal vaccination is recommended for people who have had or are having their spleen removed. Vaccination is also recommended for young people moving to hostels, military recruits and people with an increased risk of invasive disease (including people with sickle cell anaemia or HIV infection).”
Meningococcal disease can be difficult to diagnose because it can look like other illnesses such as the flu. It has a range of symptoms including fever, headache, dislike of light, vomiting, a rash that does not fade when pressed, confusion and sleepiness.
Dr Weir said: “Anyone with some of these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention, as early treatment is extremely important. People who were concerned or confused about symptoms should seek medical advice straightaway. Healthline can also be called freephone on 0800 611 116 at any hour of the day or night – even if you have already been seen by a health professional. If you have seen a doctor and gone home, but are still concerned, don't hesitate to call your doctor again or seek further medical advice.”
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