By Meningococcal Australia
Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that can result in death or permanent disability within hours.
There are 5 main strains, (A, B, C, W, Y) in Australia, with the majority of recent infections resulting from B strain. All 5 strains can be vaccinated against. The best protection is vaccination. With the speed and severity of this disease, it is important to know the signs symptoms and act quickly if you suspect meningococcal.
‘I’ve seen cases where someone has been well at breakfast – and dead by dinner!’ - Dr Clayton Golledge Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases expert
The majority of victims recover fully, however 10% of those infected will die, and around 20% will have permanent disabilities, ranging from learning difficulties, sight and hearing problems, to liver and kidney failure, loss of fingers, toes and limbs and scarring caused by skin grafts.
Key message: Know. Check. Act.
Know the signs and symptoms
Check that vaccines are up to date
Act quickly if you suspect meningococcal disease
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms in babies and young children may include irritability, difficulty walking or lethargy, refusal to eat, a high pitched cry, and a bulging fontanel. In the later stages, a pinprick rash can develop. If you suspect meningococcal infection, act quickly and ask medical professionals to rule out meningococcal.
The distinctive rash may start with a simple spot or blister anywhere on the body, and develops quickly to red pinpricks then into a purple bruise like blotches. It’s important not to wait until the rash appears before seeking treatment, as the meningococcal rash signifies a critical stage of the disease.
Meningococcal C conjugate vaccine: protects against C strain. Recommended for all children at the age of 12 months (as part of the free National Immunisation Program). Also suitable for teenagers and adults.
Meningococcal B: Around 90% of all cases in Australia are a result of B strain. The vaccine launched in March 2014, available by private script from your doctor. Ask your doctor for more information.
Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine: protects against A, CD, W and Y strains, Recommended for travellers and not subsidised by the government.
Given meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted by respiratory droplets, good hygiene is important to minimising the likelihood of contraction. This includes washing hands, avoid sharing food and drinks, turning away to cough or sneeze, disposing of tissues in the bin after use.
Fourteen month old Danielle woke late on a Saturday night with a fever and vomiting. Thinking it was just another bug, she was put back to bed with paracetamol and left to sleep it off. At 8am the following morning, she was found limp in her cot. Within hours, she had developed a light rash over her body. Danielle survived, just. Two weeks later, Danielle had lost her left arm to the elbow, fingers, palm and half her thumb on her right hand and some toes.
‘The only thing that mattered was that my beautiful baby girl was only with me for 14 months and she was going to be taken away from me for ever.’ Danielle’s mum
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.