AN 18-month-old child suspected of contracting meningococcal disease has died in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital after being air lifted from Mannum.
Via The Advertiser: The child had undergone meningococcal disease testing on Sunday though the results are not known. An SA Health spokeswoman released a statement on Sunday afternoon;
“An 18-month old child from regional South Australia tragically passed away this afternoon at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Our thoughts are with the child’s family and we urge people to respect their privacy at this time.”
Meningococcal disease is an intense bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not treated.
The latest (2016) figures from the federal Health Department show there have been a total of 210 cases of invasive meningococcal disease in the last 12 months. Nine people have died. Of those 210 cases, 87 were the W-strain, 79 were B-strain, 29 were Y-strain.
Invasive meningococcal B disease is the leading cause of life-threatening meningitis in the industrialised world. It develops rapidly, typically among healthy children and adolescents, and initial symptoms can often resemble the flu, making it hard to diagnose.
Even with the appropriate treatment, one in 10 people who contract the disease will die.
Important parent information on meningococcal disease.
Who is at risk of meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease can strike babies, children and adults – anywhere, at any time. Those most at risk are:
- Babies and children up to the age of 5 years – this group accounts for two thirds of cases (due to their less mature immune system and tendency to put things in their mouth and share food, drink and toys).
- Teenagers and young adults from 15 to 24 years – primarily because of the socially interactive lifestyle they lead, which is more likely to involve intimate activities such as kissing and sharing drinks.
Winter and early spring are higher risk times, because the many viruses around can weaken the body’s natural immune system. There is also the risk of catching a virus first, followed a few days later by a meningococcal infection, making the illness much harder to identify.
What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a medical emergency. It can kill within hours, so early diagnosis and treatment is vital. Do not wait for the purple rash to appear as that is a critical stage of the disease. Be aware there are two different sets of symptoms, depending on whether it takes the form of meningitis or septicaemia (blood poisoning). A high fever is usually one of the symptoms.
Symptoms in babies and young children may include irritability, difficulty walking or lethargy, refusal to eat, a high pitched cry, and a bulging fonteanelle (soft spot on the top of the head).
- fever (which may not go down with medication)
- nausea or vomiting
- lack of energy
- tiredness or drowsiness
- confusion or disorientation
- irritability or agitation
- a sore throat
- a rash, which may start off as a spot, scratch mark or blister, as a faint pink rash or as red or purple pinpricks on the skin, then develop into the distinctive purple bruising.
Get urgent medical advice from your doctor or hospital if you are in any way concerned that you or someone you know is presenting symptoms consistent with meningococcal disease.
Prevention of meningococcal disease.
While it’s advisable to practice good hygiene to minimise the spread of bacteria causing disease, and to avoid sharing drink bottles, food, toothbrushes, mouthguards and lip gloss, the only truly effective way to prevent meningococcal disease is vaccination.
In Australia there are now vaccines available for each of the 5 main strains of the disease:
Meningococcal C conjugate 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 now has a 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. See your doctor for advice as this is generally recommended when travelling overseas to certain areas. This vaccine is not subsidised by the Government.