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Increase In Reports Of Meningococcal In July

Significant Increase In Reports Of Meningococcal In July

A significant increase in reports of meningococcal last month shows there is no sign of the epidemic abating.

During the week 20 July to 27 July alone, there were 21 reports, with cases identified in Northland, North West Auckland, Central Auckland, South Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Manawatu, Welllington, Otago and Southland.

This brings the total number of cases in the year to 27 July 2001 to 316, with 15 deaths. In the same time last year a total of 241 cases were reported with eight deaths.

Ministry of Health Public Health Medicine Specialist Dr Jane O'Hallahan said Meningococcal disease is a year-round disease, but cases do tend to increase during winter and spring.

"People must remain vigilant against the disease. We are currently in the eleventh year of an epidemic which is expected to continue for a further 10 years. Between 1 January 1991 and 27 July 2002 there have been 3866 cases and 173 deaths, and the statistics for last month, alone, clearly show there is no sign of the epidemic abating.

Dr O'Hallahan, who is also the Project Manager for the Ministry of Health's Meningococcal Vaccine Strategy team, said that whilst development of a tailor-made vaccine for New Zealand was underway, it is important that the public and medical professionals are aware of this disease, the symptoms and the importance of early intervention, diagnosis and treatment.

"Children under five are most at risk of contracting meningococcal disease. Symptoms in a very young child can include a fever and vomiting, or the child may refuse drinks or feeds, be excessively sleepy, or cry and be unsettled. A rash like blood spots under the skin may also appear at a later stage. The symptoms in an adult are similar.

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"Meningococcal disease can develop quickly, so it is important that if someone you know is sick, seek help fast. Don't Wait - Take Action as early treatment improves outcomes and can help save lives."

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection caused by a bacterium (germ) Neisseria meningitidis, known as a meningococcus. It usually affects the membrane around the brain (meningitis) or the blood (blood poisoning). It is a serious disease and can sometimes cause death or permanent disability such as deafness.

The location of the 21 cases reported in the week 20 July - 27 July were: Northland (2), North West Auckland (1), Central Auckland (3), South Auckland (1), Waikato (4), Tauranga (1), Eastern Bay of Plenty (2), Gisborne (1), Manawatu (1), Wellington (2), Otago (2), and Southland (1).

Key messages for meningococcal disease

Don't wait - take action: see a doctor if you or your child is sick.

If your child is sick - check often.

Meningococcal disease - early treatment saves lives.

Your child may be seriously ill if they: - have a fever - refuse drinks or feeds - are sleepy or floppy - or harder to wake - vomit - are crying or unsettled - have a rash/spots - have a headache.

Doctor' visits are free for children under six.

Anyone can get meningococcal disease - though those at greatest risk are children under five and young adults.

if your child gets worse - take them straight back to the doctor.

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