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Five Cases of Meningococcal Disease

Media Release

21 April 2005
Five Cases of Meningococcal
Disease – serogroup confirms cases were not related

“We have now received the serogroup information about the 5 cases of Meningococcal disease that occurred in the last week of March and first week of April this year. This confirms these cases were not connected in any way. From the public health follow up at the time of notification we knew the ill people were different ages, lived in different parts of the city and had not attended any common social events ” said Dr Nesdale.

Of the five cases, one was group C, which accounted for 8% of cases in New Zealand last year, the other 4 were of the B strain. Of the four that were group B, 1 was of the B epidemic strain, 2 were not the epidemic strain and for one specimen it was not possible to determine if it was the epidemic strain or not. It is unusual that only one was the B epidemic strain as in NZ each year up to 75% of cases of Meningococcal disease are caused by the epidemic B strain.

“It is important that we look at the bigger picture of Meningococcal disease and not just this small number of recent cases ” said Dr Annette Nesdale. In the greater Wellington region over the last 3 years 67% of laboratory confirmed cases of Meningococcal disease have been of the B epidemic strain.

The occurrence of the group C and the non- epidemic B strain highlights the importance of keeping an eye on sick people even if they have had the three doses of the MeNZB vaccine.

The signs and symptoms of Meningococcal disease in a young child may be unspecific and include: fever, crying or irritability, refusal to drink or eat, vomiting, drowsiness and a rash or spots. Adults and older children may have a fever and headache, vomit, be drowsy or confused, have a stiff neck and dislike bright lights, have joint pain or aching muscles and have a rash.

“If you suspect that someone you know may have meningococcal disease, make sure that they get immediate medical attention. Even if a doctor doesn’t think it is meningococcal disease at the time they are seen they should still be watched at home and taken back to the doctor if they get worse,” Dr Nesdale said.

Meningococcal disease can be a very difficult disease to diagnose as the early symptoms are very similar to those of influenza, but people with meningococcal disease can deteriorate and become ill very rapidly. "Meningococcal disease needs urgent admission to hospital and treatment with antibiotics," she said.

Ends

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