What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a rare but life-threatening infection caused by a number of different strains of meningococcal bacteria (Neisseria meningitis) that invade the body from the throat or nose.
Meningococcal bacteria are carried in the nose and throat of healthy individuals and are spread through coughing, sneezing or close prolonged contact with infected people. The illness can cause septicaemia (blood poisoning) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord).
Who is affected?
The highest rate of meningococcal disease occurs in children under five years of age, although this has decreased since the introduction of the free meningococcal C vaccine under the National Immunisation Program.
The bacteria is also commonly found in teenagers and young adults.
Most people with meningococcal infection fully recover, but one in thirty people who survive can develop longterm health complications including limb deformity, skin scarring, deafness and possible loss of brain function. Meningococcal W disease has a higher death rate than meningococcal C and meningococcal B infections and may be fatal in about 1 in 10 cases.
It takes between one and 10 days (commonly three-four days) for symptoms of meningococcal meningitis to show after infection. These symptoms, which may not all be present at once, include:
sensitivity to light
People with meningococcal disease can become extremely unwell very quickly. As well as causing meningitis and septicaemia – often simultaneously – meningococcal disease can lead to pneumonia (lung infection), septic arthritis, and conjunctivitis (eye infection).
Globally there are 13 strains of meningococcal disease, the most common being A, B, C, W135 and Y. The two most common strains of meningococcal disease in Australia are B and C.
In Australia, meningococcal infections caused by strain B & C are vaccine preventable in all age groups, including babies and young children.
As part of the Australian immunisation schedule children are vaccinated against Meningococcal C at 12 months. This is in combination with the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine. The addition of this combined vaccine reduces the number of injections needed at the 12-month schedule point from three to two.
There are 2 other meningococcal vaccinations available : Meningococcal B (Bexsero(R) and Meningococcal ACWY (Menveo(R) / Menactra (R) ).
Meningococcal B is an optional private vaccination available to at risk children.
Meningococcal ACWY is provided by the government to children between the ages of 15 and 19. It is available as an optional private vaccination to younger children.
Hawthorne Clinic stocks all of the meningococcal vaccinations (private and government) and the clinic staff are available to give advice regarding protecting your children from meningococcal infection.
Meningococcal ACWY Vaccination Program
The Queensland government offers free meningococcal ACWY vaccination to all:
Year 10 students through the School Immunisation Program in school year 2017
Young adults aged between 15 to 19 years who can access the vaccine through their doctor or immunisation provider from June 2017 until May 2018.
Why is this program targeting 15 to 19 year olds?
Some of the highest rates of meningococcal carriage occur among 15 to 19 year olds and this age group can transmit the meningococcal bacteria to people who are at increased risk of infection, including young children.
The reason the Government is vaccinating 15 to 19 year olds is to reduce the risk of meningococcal disease caused by strains A, C, W and Y in this age group, and to reduce the spread of meningococcal disease caused by these strains. Vaccinating this group will protect individuals immediately and the wider community over time.
Additional resources and information
Visit the Queensland Health website
Call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
Download the Queensland Government Meningococcal ACWY Vaccination Program information sheet
Make an appointment with your Doctor here at Hawthorne Clinic
Articles original published by https://www.health.qld.gov.au and http://www.immunise.health.gov.au