Toddler Dies from Confirmed Meningococcal Disease in New England
A toddler from the New England region has died from confirmed meningococcal disease.
This is the fourth case of meningococcal disease in the Hunter New England region this year.
Public Health Physician, Dr David Durrheim expressed the District’s condolences.
“This is a tragic event and our sympathies are with the child’s family at this very difficult time,” said Dr Durrheim.
Clearance antibiotics have been prescribed to close contacts of the child to eradicate any meningococcal bacteria they may be carrying and prevent further transmission.
Meningococcal disease can occur at any time of year, but there is typically a peak in cases in spring following the winter flu season.
Most cases occur in infants, young children, teenagers and young adults, although people of any age can be affected.
Meningococcal infection does not spread easily. It is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying the bacteria and close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.
Meningococcal disease usually begins with the sudden onset of fever, often with headache, nausea and drowsiness. Neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and a rash of reddish-purple spots or bruises may develop rapidly.
Babies with the infection may be irritable, not feed properly and have an abnormal cry.
Since 1 July last year, the Australian Government has expanded the protection offered to
infants under the National Immunisation Program to include meningococcal A, W and Y
disease, in addition to the meningococcal C protection that has been offered since 2003.
In addition, the NSW Government has funded meningococcal ACWY vaccine for older
adolescents in schools since 2017 in response to an increase in cases of meningococcal W in recent years.
A single free meningococcal ACWY vaccine was offered to high school students
in Years 11 and 12 in 2017 and Years 10 and 11 in 2018. The Federal Government has
announced funding to continue this program.
People aged 15-19 years who have not received the ACWY vaccine via the school program can visit their general practitioner to receive a free vaccine.
The NSW Government invested $17 million in the Meningococcal W Response Program and over 200,000 teenagers were vaccinated with the ACWY vaccine in the first two years of the program.