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.
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