20 August 2018

Case of the potentially deadly meningococcal disease contracted in the ACT

| Glynis Quinlan
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A still from a new video released today by ACT Health which highlights to young people why getting vaccinated against meningococcal is so important.

A case of the potentially deadly meningococcal disease has been contracted in the ACT with a teenage girl admitted to Canberra Hospital with the condition over the weekend.

ACT Health has been notified that the teenager contracted meningococcal B strain but is recovering well.

This is the first case of meningococcal B notified in the ACT since 2016. The more dominant strains of the meningococcal disease are also reasonably rare, with only one or two cases a year in the ACT.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said the teenage girl sought treatment early after experiencing symptoms such as headaches, fever and general body pain. She received treatment and is “doing well”.

Dr Kelly said immediate action was taken once the case was notified.

“ACT Health has taken appropriate public health action in relation to this case, in accordance with national guidelines,” Dr Kelly said.

“Action taken includes the provision of antibiotics to people who have been in close contact with the person and information about meningococcal disease to those at low-risk as contacts.”

Dr Kelly said that the school the teenager attends and her classmates have also be notified.

ACT Health warns that meningococcal symptoms usually develop very quickly over a few hours and it is extremely important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

“Meningococcal disease is rare, but it can be severe, leading to life-long complications or death. It can cause meningitis and/or bactaeremia – an infection of the blood,” Dr Kelly said.

In more recent years, the dominant disease-causing strains in the ACT and nationally have been meningococcal W and Y.

Dr Kelly said young adults and older teenagers were at a higher risk of contracting the meningococcal disease.

With this in mind, ACT Health has today released a new video which highlights to young people why getting vaccinated against meningococcal is so important.

Another still from the ACT Health video (shown below).

“People in these age groups are more likely to carry bacteria in their nose and throat, and more likely to spread the bacteria to others,” Dr Kelly said.

“That’s why we are targeting young people aged 16 to 19 with a catch-up program for the meningococcal ACWY vaccine.

“It’s also why earlier this year we rolled out the program to Year 10 students in schools and, starting this week, we will be extending it to all Year 11 and 12 students.”

ACT Health advises that young people aged 16 to 19 who have yet to receive the meningococcal vaccine can also get the free vaccine through their GP until the end of the year.

The meningococcal ACWY vaccine does not cover the rarer meningococcal B strain but a vaccine is available privately through GPs.

For more information about meningococcal disease and the catch-up program please click here.

ACT Health’s new online video about meningococcal vaccine can be seen below.

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