8 Mar 2023

Student confirmed as third case of meningococcal disease in Canterbury this year

8:15 pm on 8 March 2023
Pharmac announced its plans last month to provide wider access for the meningococcal B vaccine for infants and young adults. The proposal would allow for it to be included in the childhood immunisation schedule and according to the agency and would give thousands of young people and infants protection against the disease.

Photo: 123rf

A teenager has been admitted to Christchurch Hospital with meningococcal disease.

National Public Health Service Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink said it was the third case of the disease in Canterbury this year.

All close contacts of the 18-year-old student have been identified and given antibiotics to prevent them developing meningococcal disease, Pink said.

"The bacteria pass from one person to another through secretions from the nose or throat, during close or prolonged contact and the chance of anyone else catching it is low.

"Members of the same household as a person who has the disease are at the highest risk of getting it, including those living in a hall of residence or boarding schools.

"It is free for those in in their first year of living in halls of residence or in boarding schools to get vaccinated against meningococcal disease and I would strongly encourage those who are eligible to get their vaccinations for the extra protection, whether that is at your student health medical centre or general practice."

In late February, Te Whatu Ora announced access to the Meningococcal B vaccine had been expanded for children aged under five years old and for people aged 13 to 25 in specified close-living situations.

Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department

The student has been admitted to Christchurch Hospital. Photo: Supplied / Te Whatu Ora

Pink said the disease was fast-moving and had similar symptoms to a number of other illnesses, including the flu.

"It's a bacterial infection that can cause two very serious illnesses: meningitis (an infection of the membranes that cover the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). It can affect anyone - but it's more common in children under the age of 5, teenagers, and young adults.

"Up to 15 percent of people carry the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in their nose and throat without being sick.

"In some people, for reasons we don't fully understand, these bacteria sometimes go on to cause disease, spreading through the bloodstream (causing blood poisoning) or to the brain (causing meningitis). The bacteria are spread in secretions from the nose or throat by coughing, sneezing and kissing."

Symptoms usually develop quickly over the span of a few hours, but can take several days in some cases.

Common symptoms of meningococcal disease include:

  • a fever (high temperature), although their hands and feet may feel cold
  • vomiting
  • muscle and joint aches and pains.
  • Item four

Common symptoms of meningitis include:

  • a headache, which may be severe
  • a stiff neck
  • sensitivity to bright light
  • drowsiness and confusion (being hard to wake them).
    • A rash, red or purple in colour, is also common. Spots can appear anywhere on the body.

      More information regarding the disease can be found here.

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