Health Warnings

4 Year Old Boy Contracts Meningococcal B Strain and Hospitalised. Know the Signs.

The South Australian Health Department has confirmed an invasive meningococcal B strain has seen a 4-year old boy hospitalised.

The boy is from metropolitan Adelaide and reported to be in a serious condition. 

SA Health has identified several people who have had contact with the boy and they are currently taking clearance antibiotics.

This is the 15th case of invasive meningococcal in SA this year, compared with 13 last year.

National figures from the Federal Health Department showed there was 210 cases of invasive meningococcal in 2016. 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, 1 in 10 people who contract the disease will die.

Miracle baby Archie Roberts survived the disease in late 2016. Image via Courier Mail.
Miracle baby Archie Roberts survived the disease in late 2016. Image via Courier Mail.

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 fontanelle (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
– dizziness
– 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, mouth guards and lip gloss, the only truly effective way to prevent meningococcal disease is vaccination.

In Australia there are now vaccines available for each of strains of the disease, your GP can advise you on how to best protect your family.

For more information on meningococcal please see

The quick fact sheet on meningococcal can be found here.

Reference information above via Meningococcal Australia.

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Mother-of-two. Tea lover. Lego Ninja. Expert in carpet Play Dough extraction. Victoria Louis is a 30-something writer based in Sydney, NSW. A former marketing manager who loves to laugh there’s no topic she won’t explore. Victoria is full of opinion, big on kindness and believes the day is always better with a dash of lipstick.

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