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Raising meningococcal disease awareness amongst doctors

Raising meningococcal disease awareness amongst doctors and healthcare professionals an important first step

It is truly tragic that three people in Northland have lost their lives to this dangerous disease, however we question the assertions that we should have warned the public earlier.

In May we had two unrelated adult cases of MenW which warranted close monitoring. Without definite information it was not appropriate to alarm the community.

This is a new strain of meningococcus that can present looking like any form of infection and appears randomly for no apparent reason.

Dr Hammer proactively raised awareness amongst both GPs and secondary care clinicians asking them to be vigilant because the presentation of meningococcus tends to be more atypical than that of other strains.

We have continued surveillance and monitored the disease incidence as is good public health practice and we are in the process of reviewing some historical epidemiological data on invasive meningococcal disease in the hope that this will inform future decisions about our response.

The Public Health Team and Dr Hammer are in continuous dialogue with the Ministry regarding this disease and tomorrow will attend the Technical Advisory Group meeting hosted by the Ministry of Health to start work on ways to reduce meningococcal disease rates across New Zealand. The DHB will be guided by the Ministry going forward.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health warned all GPs and emergency departments about concerns over the rising numbers of cases in New Zealand and the need to give antibiotics without delay if the potentially-fatal disease was suspected. They also recommended the wider public should also boost their knowledge of the disease to ensure those with possible symptoms seek swift medical attention.

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