Increased vigilance needed for meningococcal disease

Media release

06 November 2018

GPs and emergency departments nationwide have been asked to boost their vigilance for people seeking medical help with possible symptoms of meningococcal disease.

This week, the Ministry of Health has warned all GPs and emergency departments about concerns over the rising numbers of cases in New Zealand and the need to give antibiotics without delay if the potentially-fatal disease was suspected.

There were 112 cases of meningococcal disease last year and 96 cases so far this year. The annual number of cases had increased steadily since 2014, when 45 cases were reported.

Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, said the wider public should also boost their knowledge of the disease to ensure those with possible symptoms seek swift medical attention.

‘We are keen to encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with the most frequent symptoms of this nasty disease because quick action can help to save lives. Meningococcal disease can progress very quickly and may initially look like other illnesses, for instance a flu-like illness.’

‘Group B disease is the most common type, but there has been a sharp increase in cases of group W meningococcal disease (MenW) since the second half of 2017, with 12 cases reported in the whole year of 2017, including 3 deaths. This year, there have been 24 cases to 5 November, including six deaths. Typically, there are zero to six cases per year of MenW.’

‘This MenW strain is associated with high mortality rates and affects all age groups. Northland has been the worst affected, with seven cases so far this year, including three deaths. Four of the cases have been reported there in September and October.

‘I want to express my deepest condolences, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, to those who have lost loved ones to this dangerous disease.’

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