Potentially deadly disease strikes region
Three cases of meningococcal disease, including one that proved fatal, have been recorded in the MidCentral health region in the past three weeks.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Rob Weir said the three cases were not related.
MidCentral District Health Board would not release information about the three patients other than to say one was in Palmerston North Hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.
Those who had been in close contact with the three people were being given antibiotics as a precaution. “The bug is spread through close contact, such as living in the same household, kissing and other sharing of saliva,” Dr Weir said.
Meningococcal disease is more common in winter and spring. There are about 100 cases in New Zealand every year.
There were 13 deaths nationwide in 2011. The disease claimed six lives in 2010 among the 96 people who were infected.
Among those to die last year was a young Manawatu child.
“You can help stop meningococcal disease from spreading by covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze," Dr Weir said.
"Good hand washing is also very important.”
Meningococcal disease could be difficult to diagnose.
This was because it could look like other illnesses such as the flu, he said.
It had a range of symptoms including fever, headache, dislike of light, vomiting, a rash that did 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 who are concerned or confused about symptoms should seek medical advice straightaway.
"Healthline can also be called freephone on 0800 611 116 at any hour of the day or night - even if you have already been seen by a health professional.
"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."
Vaccination was 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.
It was also recommended for people who have had, or were having, their spleen removed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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