Killer disease strain was the same
The strain of meningococcal disease that killed Levin teenager Letitia Gallagher was similar to the one that killed a Wellington girl this month.
Letitia, 18, died at Palmerston North Hospital on July 24; she was one of three people to contract meningococcal disease in the MidCentral Health district this winter.
Last week, Wellington schoolgirl Amanda Crook-Barker, 12, also died of the disease.
“The three cases of meningococcal disease in the MidCentral District diagnosed in July and August 2012 have all been confirmed as resulting from the group C meningococcus organism,’’ MidCentral Medical Officer of Health Dr Rob Weir said.
Amanda also died from a group C strain of the disease, Wellington health authorities have confirmed.
Meningitis is caused by a range of bacteria and viruses, including strains of the meningococcal bacterium.
A meningococcal disease epidemic, caused by a group B strain, occurred in New Zealand between 1992 and 2007.
A vaccination programme was introduced in 2004 and ran until 2008, but that protected against group B strains only.
“You can help stop meningococcal disease from spreading by covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze,’’ Dr Weir said.
Washing hands well was important and other vaccines protected against some of the causes of meningitis, including some other strains of meningococcal disease, he said.
‘‘Meningococcal vaccination is recommended for people who have had, or are having, their spleen removed.
‘‘Vaccination is also recommended for young people moving to hostels, military recruits and people with an increased risk of invasive disease – including people with sickle cell anaemia or HIV infection.”
Meningococcal disease can be difficult to diagnose because it can look like other illnesses such as the flu.
Symptoms include fever, headache, dislike of light, vomiting, a rash that does not fade when pressed, confusion and sleepiness.
“Anyone with some of these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention, as early treatment is extremely important,’’ Dr Weir said.
People concerned or confused about symptoms should seek medical advice straight away.
There is also a 24-hour healthline, 0800 611 116.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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