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WA child dies from meningococcal disease

AAP logoAAP 14/09/2016

A young child has died from meningococcal disease in Western Australia, the Health Department reports.

Close contacts have been given information, and where appropriate, antibiotics and a vaccine to minimise the chance of the organism being passed on to others.

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening illness caused by a bacterial infection of the blood and/or membranes lining the spinal cord and brain, and occasionally other areas such as large joints.

The incidence of meningococcal disease has decreased in WA over the past decade, with fewer than 20 cases reported each year, down from a peak of 86 cases in 2000.

There were 17 incidents reported in 2015 and this is the 12th case this year, with winter and spring being the most common times of year for the disease.

The Health Department says meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10 to 20 per cent of the population at any given time, and it is very rare for the bacteria to invade the bloodstream and cause serious infection.

Symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, severe muscle and joint pain, neck stiffness and confusion.

In young children unable to complain of symptoms, signs may include blotchy complexion, lethargy and a rash.

A vaccine to protect against the serogroup C type of meningococcal disease is provided free to one-year-old children.

A vaccine against serogroup B, the most common type in WA, has recently become available on prescription and combination vaccines are also available to protect against other types of the organism.

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