Friday 10 March 2023Media release3 minutes to read
National Public Health Service Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink confirmed this afternoon that a second case of meningococcal disease has been reported in an 18-year-old student, and the student had been admitted to Christchurch Hospital.
“This is the fourth case of meningococcal disease in Canterbury this year,” says Dr Pink.
“We have identified the close contacts of this person and they have all received antibiotics, to prevent them developing meningococcal disease. The bacteria pass from one person to another through secretions from the nose or throat, during close or prolonged contact and the chance of anyone else catching it is low.”
Meningococcal disease is a fast-moving illness, which has symptoms similar to a number of other illnesses such as COVID-19 and influenza.
“It’s a bacterial infection that can cause two very serious illnesses: meningitis (an infection of the membranes that cover the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). It can affect anyone – but it’s more common in children under the age of five, teenagers, and young adults.
“Up to 15% of people carry the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in their nose and throat without being sick. In some people, for reasons we don’t fully understand, these bacteria sometimes go on to cause disease, spreading through the bloodstream (causing blood poisoning) or to the brain (causing meningitis). The bacteria are spread in secretions from the nose or throat by coughing, sneezing and kissing,” Dr Pink said.
Signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease
Meningococcal disease symptoms typically develop very quickly over a few hours, but in some cases may develop more slowly over several days. A person with meningococcal disease may only have some of the symptoms. The symptoms don't develop in any particular order.
Common symptoms of meningococcal disease include:
Common symptoms of meningitis include:
A red or purple rash is common, but it doesn't always happen. One or two spots can appear anywhere on the body then many more appear looking like rash or bruises.
If you’re concerned that someone in your family might have meningococcal disease, call your doctor straight away or dial 111. Say what the symptoms are.
In Canterbury you can call your own general practice team 24/7 and after-hours when the practice is closed simply follow the instructions on the answer phone to be put through to a health professional who can provide free health advice. You can also call Healthline 0800 611 116 24/7.
If you have seen a doctor and gone home, but are still concerned, don't hesitate to call your doctor again or seek further medical advice.
More information on prevention can be found here: https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/meningococcal-disease-including-meningitis
Page last updated: 17 April 2023
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