Meningococcal death - Darwin

Territorians are being urged to vaccinate against meningococcal disease, following the death of a woman in Darwin on New Year’s Day.

The woman, aged in her 30s, presented at Palmerston Regional Hospital on New Year’s Eve.

“This is a very sad loss,” said Dr Vicki Krause, Director for the Centre for Disease Control. “While meningococcal disease is considered a rare disease it can be a very serious condition.

“It is very important that people are diagnosed early and treated promptly with antibiotics to improve the chances of a full recovery.”

Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include:

  • fever
  • stiff neck
  • headache
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • rash of tiny red or purple spots or larger bruises
  • joint or muscle pains
  • drowsiness, confusion or even coma.

Meningococcal disease is caused mainly by five different strains: A, B, C, W and Y. Until recently in the NT there have been 1 to 4 cases per year. There were 32 cases in 2017 when Central Australia experienced a meningococcal W outbreak over a 3 to 4 month period and in 2018 there were 10 cases.

Invasive meningococcal disease can develop very quickly and can causes death in 8 to 10% of cases. It also can lead to hearing loss, fits, limb amputations, renal failure and skin scarring.

Dr Krause urged people to get vaccinated.

“Vaccines against the ACWY strains are available free of charge to all Territorians aged 1-19 years old – this age group is at high-risk of disease and also teenagers are a group at higher risk of transmitting the bacteria,” she said. The time is now to get your vaccine for those who are in the 1-19 age group if they have not yet not gone along for the vaccination. This will protect the individual and work to reduce transmission.

“Anyone aged 2 months and over can get a script for a vaccination from their GP or health care provider to protect them from meningococcal ACWY or B strains of this potentially life-threatening disease. Talk with your GP. The vaccines are safe and effective.

“Territorians should also be aware that influenza can also be a contributing factor to the development of meningococcal disease. We have just had a very late and intense influenza season. It is not too late to make sure you are protected with a flu vaccine as well.” It is not too late to get the 2018 vaccine, with most brands staying current until end of February. The Top End has flu throughout the year, often with a peak in March-April before the 2019 vaccine is available.

Influenza vaccines are available for free for eligible at-risk groups through your local general practitioner, Aboriginal community controlled clinic, urban community care centres or remote health service.

At-risk groups eligible for free influenza vaccine include:

  • Pregnant women – any trimester
  • Aboriginal children under 5 years of age
  • Aboriginal people over 15 years of age
  • All people with a chronic medical condition
  • All people over 65 years of age.

For more information about meningococcal disease and vaccination follow the link https://nt.gov.au/wellbeing/health-conditions-treatments/bacterial/meningococcal-disease

Contact: Tess Nekrasov

Phone: 0427 596 954

Last updated: 04 January 2019