22 Oct 2022

Warnings over potential meningitis outbreak at Otago University

5:16 pm on 22 October 2022
Clock tower building on campus

Otago University. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The Meningitis Foundation is urging university students in Dunedin to be extremely cautious after a potential outbreak.

A case of meningococcal disease was discovered in North Dunedin this week.

The person attended a gig at U Bar last Wednesday and had visited Unipol gym.

The foundation's chairperson Gerard Rushton said it was vital the students understood how dangerous the infection was.

He said up to 20 percent of the people who contract bacterial forms of meningitis would die, and many did no notice the symptoms until it was too late.

"And up to 40 percent of the people that contract the disease will have life-long disabilities - anything from organ failures, kidney failures, to amputations to deafness, blindness.

"So the mortality and morbidity rate of this disease is very high."

Rushton said treatment could often come too late, and was asking the government to make vaccinations free for young people.

"This disease is preventable, what we're advocating is to protect all our young people because the disease moves so quickly treatment is not an option, we need to have protection and protect our youth."

He said people who may have been exposed to the infection should seek a doctor immediately if they feel even minor symptoms.

"Meningococcal disease is spread through prolonged person to person contact or through contact with a contagious person's saliva," Dr Susan Jack, Medical Officer of Health said in a statement from Te Whatu Ora Southern Public Health.

"Though the risk of developing the illness is low, symptoms can come on rapidly and the infection can become significantly serious in a matter of hours. If you feel really unwell with any of these symptoms, you need to urgently seek care."

  • Concerns we're not protected enough against meningococcal disease as we open borders up
  • Meningitis vaccine petition urges free access for under-16s
  • Meningitis vaccinations: 'This is such a relief'
  • Petition to fund meningitis vaccine delivered to Parliament