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Tragic Meningococcal B death of 14 month old

Media Release Date: 2 November, 2012
From: Dr Jonathan Jarman, Medical Officer of Health
Subject: Tragic Meningococcal B death of 14 month old

Northland District Health Board has been notified of a case of Meningococcal disease which has resulted in the tragic death of a 14 month old child.

Lab results have confirmed the B strain of Meningococcal disease.

The child became unwell on Sunday 14 October and was taken to an after-hours GP. Tragically, the child died at home in the early hours of Monday 15 October.

This is the first death and the third case of meningococcal disease in Northland so far this year. Earlier in October there was a 13 month old boy and in March there was an 8 month old girl, neither case was fatal.

Northland Medical Officer of Health Dr Jonathan Jarman said that meningococcal disease was a very unpredictable disease.

“Initially it can present like the flu or a tummy bug, but the difference is Meningococcal disease can get worse very quickly. Some people do not even get sick when they catch the bug, however a small number rapidly develop invasive Meningococcal disease. Dr Jarman has met with the Child’s family, and says it is one of the saddest cases he has seen.

“This case was an example of how quickly Meningococcal disease can progress, and I understand the sorrow and anger the family are dealing with at this time.

Dr Jarman adds it is important that parents seek medical advice if their child becomes unwell, “If your child is sick take them to the doctor. And if they don't get better or if you worried go back to the doctor.”

An investigation into the death will be led by the Te Tai Tokerau PHO, which will look at the management of the case by the GP.

“It is crucial that an appropriate process is followed investigating this case. It is neither appropriate nor beneficial to speculate at this stage”.

“Ultimately it is up to the Coroner to decide on the cause of death and to look at preventable factors” said Dr Jarman.

For more information about meningococcal disease talk to your doctor, practice nurse, or medical centre or contact your local public health service. For free advice after hours (24 hour service) phone Healthline 0800 611116.

More information about Meningococcal Disease 2012 has seen the least number of reported cases of meningococcal disease in Northland since 1991. From 1992 to the mid 2000s there was an epidemic of serogroup B disease in New Zealand.

In 1997 Northland experienced a spike in cases, where there were 43 cases including two deaths. The Meningococcal serogroup B vaccination campaign finished in 2008. So far in 2012, confirmed cases of meningococcal disease include two serogroup ‘B and one serogroup ‘C’.

Northland DHB delivered an extensive FREE vaccination programme in late 2011 following a community outbreak of Meningococcal C, to all Northlanders aged 12 months to under 20 years, with approximately 33,000 vaccinated against the disease.

A small amount of Meningococcal C vaccine was left over and is still available free of charge at participating Northland GPs for people aged between one year and 20 years who missed out last year.


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