Northern Sydney Local Health District is urging people to be alert to the signs of meningococcal disease following the diagnosis of two cases on the Northern Beaches in the past fortnight.
Both cases have responded well to treatment and the Northern Sydney Public Health Unit is in the process of identifying close contacts to provide them with information and advice.
“Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious bacterial infection and it is important that people are alert to its symptoms and seek treatment quickly,” NSLHD Director of Public Health Dr Michael Staff said.
Often it can mimic other common illnesses with nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, headache, joint pain, sensitivity to light, or a sudden fever. A rash of red-purple spots or bruises is often seen with the illness but in some cases a rash doesn’t appear, or it could be the last symptom to appear.
“The crucial action people can take is to get assessed quickly by their local doctor or emergency department as early recognition and treatment is very effective” Dr Staff said.
Meningococcal infection does not spread easily. It is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying the bacteria. Close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.
The public is alerted when there is evidence of possible spread in the local area.
“It more commonly occurs in people aged between 15-24 years and children aged under 5 years, but it can affect anyone,” Dr Staff said.
One case has been identified as being caused by the type B strain of the illness and the other is yet to be typed. Vaccination protects against some types of meningococcal disease and is highly effective.
Vaccination for meningococcal disease types A, C, W and Y, is available on the National Immunisation Program for infants at 12 months of age and adolescents in Year 10.
Vaccination against type B is available but not included in the National Immunisation Program, except for Aboriginal children and people with certain medical conditions.
However, as there are several strains of meningococcal disease, and vaccination does not cover all strains, even vaccinated people need to be on the lookout for symptoms.
The above was a statement from Northern Sydney Health reprinted verbatim.