There have been five confirmed cases of the rare W strain of meningococcal virus identified in the last two months in Kalgoorlie.
A free vaccination program is planned for the Kalgoorlie-Boulder and surrounding areas following the outbreak. Health Minister John Day says this requires a “targeted” response.
A one-off meningococcal ACWY vaccination program begins on Monday (December 12) for people living in Kalgoorlie, Boulder, Coolgardie and Kambalda, following a recent community outbreak of the W strain (MenW).
Announcing the campaign today, Health Minister John Day said it would target the groups most at risk of meningococcal disease, children aged four years and under, and 15 to 19-year-olds.
“Our priority is the Kalgoorlie area because, in the past two months, five linked cases of the MenW strain have been identified,” Mr Day said.
“Tests just completed indicate these cases are genetically connected and there is local transmission of a particular type of MenW, triggering this targeted intervention.
“The Department of Health ran a similar program in a remote Kimberley Aboriginal community in August this year, and no further cases have been reported there.”
The Minister said young children, especially Aboriginal children, and older teenagers were the most susceptible.
“Of the 27 meningococcal W cases diagnosed in WA since 2000, 37 per cent were in children aged four years and under, while 22 per cent were adolescents aged 15 to 19 years,” he said.
“In addition, older teenagers are known to be the most likely to carry the meningococcal bacteria, so vaccinating this group is the best way of preventing them from passing it on to others in the wider community.”
Mr Day said from Monday, December 12, vaccination clinics would be set up in the Kalgoorlie area, in schools that had not yet closed for the year, and also at the Bega Garnbirringu Health Service and Community Health Clinics. The vaccine would also be available from GPs and other primary care providers.
“Though meningococcal is an uncommon disease, it can progress rapidly,” he said.
“So it is crucial that people across the State, and especially in the Goldfields, are aware of the early signs and symptoms.”
These may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains. Young children may not complain of symptoms, so fever, pale or blotchy complexion, vomiting, lethargy (blank staring, floppiness, inactivity, being hard to wake, or poor feeding) and rash are important signs.
Sometimes – but not always – symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises.
“We are concentrating on Kalgoorlie and surrounding towns but, as always, WA’s Communicable Diseases Directorate is closely monitoring the situation across the State,” the Minister said.
Residents in the Kalgoorlie area can call 1800 131 231 for information on clinic times and vaccine availability.
For more information about the meningococcal disease W program, visit http://www.health.wa.gov.au
•Overall, the incidence of meningococcal disease has decreased significantly in WA during the past decade, with about 20 cases now reported each year, down from a peak of 86 cases in 2000
•17 cases of meningococcal disease were reported in 2015, with 22 cases reported so far in 2016
•There are several types of meningococcal disease but MenW is now most prevalent
•MenW has been increasing annually since 2013, with one case notified in that year and 14 cases so far this year
•Only six cases of MenW were diagnosed in WA in the 13-year period from 2000 to 2012
•The five Kalgoorlie MenW cases comprised three young Aboriginal children and two non-Aboriginal young adults
•All have made, or are expected to make, a full recovery
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