A young child in Western Australia has sadly died after contracting meningococcal disease and another child is also battling the infection.
The two children, both aged under three, had contracted the serogroup W infection, the state’s health department said yesterday.
An adult from interstate was also infected with another strain of the bacteria. The cases are not linked at all.
“There have now been four deaths from meningococcal disease in WA in 2017, all infected with the serogroup W type of the organism,” a health department statement said.’
So far this year there have been 38 cases of the potentially deadly disease, up from 23 in 2016.
“The numbers of serogroup W and Y cases are well above the long term average of less than one case per year of each of these types,” the department said.
Whilst 93 percent of Australian parents believe that they know what meningococcal disease is, on average nearly a third of Australian parents (28%) are not fully aware of the facts about the disease.
GSK conducted research that uncovered some significant knowledge gaps among Australian parents with young children:
•41% of Australian parents are not aware of specific symptoms of the disease.
•46% did not know that routine childhood vaccination does not cover all strains of meningococcal disease.
• 22% misidentified the deadly bacterial infection as a type of cancer (2%), flu (16%) and even sunburn (4%).
School leavers are currently being urged to take advantage of the free meningococcal vaccine before heading off for their end of year celebrations to avoid contracting the rare yet life-threatening disease. Read more on that here.
Three Australian families share their horrifying experience with meningococcal to help raise awareness and remind parents of the signs and symptoms. Read their stories HERE.
The most common serogroups of meningococcal disease in Australia are B, C, W and Y.
A vaccine is available for meningococcal C which is included in the National Immunisation Program schedule and recommended for all children at one year of age as part of the free routine immunisation.
Meningococcal C – vaccine protects against meningococcal group C disease. It is recommended for all children at the age of 12 months (as part of the free National Immunisation Program). It is also suitable for teenagers and adults. Contact your GP for more information.
Meningococcal B – vaccine launched in Australia March 2014 which is available by private script from your doctor. This vaccine is not yet subsidised by the Government. For infants, the vaccine is given in four doses – at 2, 4, 6 and 12 months of age. For children over 12 months, teenagers and adults, the vaccine is given in two doses approximately 2 months apart (for the precise timing, check with your GP). Possible side effects are a mild to moderate fever (as well as a sore arm), so your doctor may recommend giving paracetamol at the same time to babies and children under 5.
Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine – is a combination vaccine and protects against groups A, C, Y and W. This is slowly being rolled out across various states for teenagers aged 15-19 years.
The signs to look out for are: (via Meningococcal Australia)
• lack of energy
• irritability or agitation
• a sore throat
Other symptoms include
•stiff or painful neck
•sensitivity to light
•twitching or convulsions
If anyone suspects meningococcal disease, they should see a doctor immediately and return if symptoms worsen.
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