The Department of Health is encouraging the public to be aware that meningococcal disease still occurs in Tasmania after a recent case was detected in the state’s south.
A 17-year-old boy from southern Tasmania was diagnosed with meningococcal disease earlier this week and is currently undergoing treatment in hospital.
The strain of the meningococcal bacterium was serogroup B, which is the second case of meningococcal disease and the second of serogroup B in Tasmania this year.
The Department has worked with the young person’s family to ensure they and other close contacts were promptly managed to minimise the risk of further infections.
Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch says anyone with a suspected infection should see a doctor immediately.
“Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious contagious disease that can develop quickly and be fatal,” said Dr Veitch.
“Early detection and treatment of cases can save lives, which means anyone with a suspected meningococcal infection needs to seek emergency medical care immediately.
“The symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever, severe headache, confusion, severe muscle pain, and rash. People with meningococcal disease can go from feeling well to being extremely ill very quickly.
“Babies and infants may not have these symptoms but can be unsettled or drowsy, pale or blotchy, floppy, and not feeding.”
The Director of Public Health says the case also highlighted the continued importance of vaccination against meningococcal disease.
“This case is a reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease,” said Dr Veitch.
“Vaccination against the meningococcal A, C, W and Y strains is routinely provided free as part of the National Immunisation Program for children aged 12 months and as part of the school-based program for students in year 10.
“A vaccine is available to protect against the meningococcal B strain for children from 6 weeks of age. This vaccine is free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants. Others wishing to protect themselves or their family against meningococcal B can purchase the vaccine through their General Practitioner with a private script.
“There has been a long-term average of 7 cases of meningococcal disease in Tasmania per year, with the number of cases declining after the Meningococcal ACWY vaccination program that started in 2017. In the last 3 years there has been an average of 3 cases per year.”
Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. Approximately 1 in 10 people can have meningococcal bacteria living naturally in the back of their nose and throat. However, in a small number of people, serious strains of the bacteria can invade the body and cause illness, known as invasive meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal disease is more common during winter and spring but can occur at any time in any place and affect people of any age.