Meningococcal disease outbreak

This week the Ministry of Health has announced a targeted vaccination programme against a deadly meningococcal disease outbreak, focusing on at-risk groups in Northland. So far this year, 29 people nationwide have contracted the MenW strain, resulting in six deaths. Three of those deaths have been in Northland.

Free vaccination programme

Free vaccinations will be offered to Northland-resident children aged nine months to four years (inclusive), and 13 to 19 years (inclusive). Vaccinations will begin on 5th December and run until 21st December, at selected high schools and community centres. Keep an eye on the Northland DHB website for vaccination clinic locations.

There is strong demand for the vaccine worldwide but the Ministry of Health are hopeful that they will be able to secure more doses in order to vaccinate everyone in the country under 20 years old.

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can result in two serious illnesses: meningitis (infection of the membranes covering the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning).

The bacteria are passed from person to person through coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing utensils, toothbrushes, pacifiers, etc. Good hygiene practices are essential including covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and washing and drying hands to help prevent the disease spreading.

It can be treated with antibiotics but needs to be caught early.

Know the symptoms

Meningococcal disease can progress into a very serious medical emergency extremely quickly. Symptoms are often similar to flu, ie high fever and muscle aches. The well-known meningitis rash is not always present. Refer to the symptom checker below for more information. If in doubt, take action and seek medical advice urgently.



For a printable version of the symptom checker above, click here.

This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ. Sources include Ministry of Health and Northland DHB.

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  1. dawnblyth 06/01/2019 at 9:06 pm

    A very useful fact sheet enclosed in this article. Its one I will be sharing with friends and family.

  2. Alezandra 04/01/2019 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks for this information. It’s hard enough to say the name of this disease. It’s a good reminder to do the things we take for granted at times like washing our hands when we are rushing. It’s starts with simple steps and always making sure we follow good hygiene practices. Like they say prevention is better than cure.

  3. Shorrty4life1 03/01/2019 at 3:30 pm

    Wowee scary facts with this story. Unbelievable that there were 29 cases nationwide resulting in some deaths also around the country. I remember a young child that was in the same small town as me when I was a child he caught it and lost fingers. Was very close to not surviving as he was so young. Real little fighter and a mother down there also didn’t make it. It’s a very bad virus. When it attacks someone it does just that.

  4. Shelz69 02/01/2019 at 10:09 am

    It is a very scary disease and I love most Mum like to know the symptoms and feel its better to be safe than sorry. It is interesting though as my daughter had it but by the time my son was due they had stopped it. I was told it was stopped because it didn’t seem to be affective at stopping people from getting it?

  5. kymmage 31/12/2018 at 12:13 pm

    My eldest got the vax when it was free and I think she had 3 boosters in top of the other. By the time my youngest came around it wasn’t in the free vax mix. It is a really serious illness and I’m also always looking for a rash if they have a fever. I guess miss 11 being vax is why they have that middle non-eligible age group. Because those kids would have potentially had the free coverage already.

  6. MuddledUpMolly 21/12/2018 at 4:49 pm

    Unfortunately family friends lost their 19 year old daughter to this awful disease just recently 🙁 They have campaigned to get the vaccine available to all vulnerable groups in the hopes that it will spare future unnecessary deaths amongst our people.

  7. Bevik1971 18/12/2018 at 11:32 am

    I think the free vaccines are a great idea. It is a truly scary disease – one of the parents at my daughters school ended up in hospital with it!! I’m always on the look out for symptoms when my daughter gets ill

  8. SarahBlair 12/12/2018 at 10:47 pm

    This is really scary, it is so fast! Everytime my kids come down with a fever it watch for the symptoms of meningococcal disease. A few weeks ago my youngest became very sick with a fever and developed a rash, we went straight to the doctors! Luckily it was a virus that he recovered from quite quickly but it was concerning!

  9. Mands1980 10/12/2018 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for this I just printed of the symptom checker as it’s such a hard one to diagnose. We live in the South Island and my kids fall between the vaccination groups so would be unable to be vaccinated if it came to the South Island without paying for it which sucks. I’m keeping a close eye on this as it is a real concern.

  10. Micht 10/12/2018 at 2:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing this and the symptoms to look for as well as prevention. This article hits quite close to home as a really good friend lost her son to septicemia and it happened suddenly and without warning, the hospital sent them home on first visit and by the time he went in again it was too late… Need to be vigilant always!!

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