NSW Health has issued advice to the community to learn more about meningococcal disease following 21 cases being reported so far this year despite the peak period for the disease still more than a month away.
Director of Communicable Diseases at NSW Health, Dr Vicky Sheppeard said cases normally start to increase towards the end of flu season when people’s immune systems are weakened by viruses.
“Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious bacterial infection that can cause death within hours and it’s hard to identify, so the more symptoms people know about, the better,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Often it can mimic other common illnesses, so be aware nearer Spring that nausea symptoms, vomiting, neck stiffness, joint pain, light sensitivity, or a sudden fever, could be something else,” she said.
“Most people normally associate meningococcal disease with a rash of red-purple spots or bruises but in some cases a rash doesn’t appear.”
She said that while the infection was serious, it did not spread easily.
“It is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying the bacteria.”
“Close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.”
Dr Sheppeard said the infection most commonly occurred in people between 15 and 24, but it could affect anyone.
She said vaccination was the best means of protection against the disease, however it did not cover all strains of meningococcal.
“Even vaccinated people need to be on the lookout for symptoms,” Dr Sheppeard said.
She said the latest Annual Immunisation Report showed vaccination rates in NSW were at their highest level ever.