Three WA adults hospitalised with meningococcal disease
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Three WA adults hospitalised with meningococcal disease

Three adults have been hospitalised after contracting meningococcal disease, the Department of Health has confirmed.

It's understood all three contracted the serogroup W meningococcal disease at some point in late 2018.

Although treatable with antibiotics, the infection progresses rapidly and it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

Although treatable with antibiotics, the infection progresses rapidly and it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Credit:Gabriele Charotte

There are no 2019 cases to-date.

In 2018, there were 41 meningcoccal cases in WA.

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The cases comprised of 30 serogroup W diagnoses, eight serogoup B and three serogroup Y.

The number of serogroup W cases in 2018 was higher than 23 cases in 2017, and above the long term average.

Over the last three years, the Department of Health has recorded 23 cases in 2016, 46 cases in 2017 and 41 cases in 2018.

The cases have also seen the emergence of new virulent strains of serogroup W and, to a lesser extent, serogroup Y.

The department routinely identifies close contacts of all notified cases and provides them with information as well as antibiotics and vaccine when necessary to minimise chances of further spreading it.

Meningococcal is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not treated in time. The infection is usually found in the blood or membranes lining the spinal chord and brain.

The infection is most common in babies, young children, older teenagers and young adult. However, serogroup W and Y are associated with a third age peak in adults over 60 years.

Symptoms include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion and occasional spotty red-purple looking like bruises.

For young children, fever, rash, blank staring and vomiting are key signs.

The infection progresses rapidly, and 5 to 10 per cent of those diagnosed die from the disease.

About15 per cent experience further complications like hearing loss and amputations.

The bacteria is carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10 to 20 percent of the population at any one time. It rarely enters the bloodstream.

The bacteria is not easily spread from person-to-person. It is present in droplets discharged when coughing or sneezing but doesn't survive more than a few seconds in the environment.

A vaccine protecting against four serogroups (W, Y, A and C) is provided free for children at 12 months of age.

There is also a WA meningococcal vaccine protecting against the same four serogroups aimed at children between one and four-years-of-age.

Due to the increase in serogroup W and Y cases in WA, the state has made available a funded vaccination program against the four serogroups specifically for teenagers aged 15 to 19 years. This commenced in 2017.

In 2019, the program is targeting Year 10 students. Other individuals in the age group of 15-19 years can play free-catch up by heading to their immunisation providers.

Details of the 12 months to 4 years and adolescent (15-19 years) meningococcal ACWY vaccine program, including where to access the free vaccine, are available at HealthyWA.

A vaccine against serogroup B meningococcal infection is available on prescription.

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