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Meningococcal epidemic still claiming Otago victim

Meningococcal epidemic still claiming Otago victims

Otago Medical Officer Of Health Says It’s Not Too Late To Be Vaccinated

Meningococcal disease is still claiming victims in Otago and people must remain vigilant against symptoms, says Otago Medical Officer of Health Marion Poore.

Three cases of meningococcal disease were notified to Public Health South in August 2005. These included two children aged under two years and one person aged 23 years. One of the children has received two MeNZB vaccinations, said Dr Poore. Laboratory typing identified two of these three cases as having the epidemic strain, while one was unable to be typed.

“A total of 12 cases of meningococcal disease have been notified to Public Health South between January and the end of August 2005 compared to 11 cases for the same period in 2004. Of the 12 cases so far in 2005, 8 have been confirmed as the epidemic strain, one was not the epidemic strain and three were unable to be typed,” said Dr Poore.

“This data shows that the epidemic in Otago is not over and that everyone must remain vigilant for this disease. Meningococcal disease can be caused by several different strains with most cases occurring in those under 20 years of age” she said.

The Meningococcal B Immunisation programme is a one-off campaign and is offered to all children and young people under 20 years of age in Otago until early 2006. “Vaccination is the best way to protect our children and young people against the epidemic strain. The sooner they receive all three injections of MeNZB vaccine, the sooner they will be protected,” said Dr Poore.

“If your child hasn’t yet received the first dose, it’s not too late,” said Dr Poore. “Children and babies under 5 years of age and young people up to 20 years of age who are not in school, can receive their vaccinations from family doctors. The School Based Campaign will begin the third round of vaccinations on 5th September.

Between 1 Jan 1999 and 31 August 2005 a total of 148 cases of meningococcal disease were notified to Public Health South. Nationally, children under 5 years of age are most at risk of meningococcal disease with the highest rates among Maori and Pacific children in this age group. As shown below, Pacific and Maori children aged 0 – 4 years in Otago, had the highest rates of disease for 2001 – 2005.

Otago meningococcal B programme sponsor Dr Roy Morris said it was crucial that general practices maintained their momentum and continued to approach the families of under 20s to encourage them to make an appointment for vaccination.

Dr Morris said it is vital that parents of under 5 year olds who have not yet been vaccinated understand it is not too late to start. They shouldn’t feel embarrassed if they haven’t had the vaccination yet, he said.

“It is just as important that young people aged 16-20, who are not at school, and have not yet been vaccinated made an appointment at their local medical practice for the vaccination.

“We are aware that there is some reluctance among the 16-20 year old age group due to a fear that the vaccination will hurt, or that they will suffer adverse side effects.

Dr Morris said it was also very important that people understood they must have three doses of the vaccination to be fully immunised. Each dose should be administered approximately six weeks apart. If your child is at school, they will they will have until October 2005 to receive their first vaccination, and until early 2006 if they are receiving the vaccination through the GP.

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