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Meningococcal Resource - Questions you should ask

Media Statement

24 June 2013

Meningococcal Resource - Questions you should ask your doctor

The parents of a 14-month-old Northland toddler who died of Meningococcal disease last year have taken action to help prevent further similar deaths.

Northland District Health Board (Northland DHB) and Te Tai Tokerau PHO has worked in conjunction with the family to develop a wallet-sized easy reference card with the types of questions patients and families can ask their doctors so they understand signs of illnesses to look out for.

14 month old Sydnee became unwell in October and was taken to an after-hours GP, before she died in the early hours the following day.

Clinical Director Te Tai Tokerau PHO Primary Healthcare Dr Kyle Eggleton said the whanau believe that the GP should have provided better information on what to look out for with a vomiting child.

“The family noted that there needs to be a conversation with the doctor about the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease”, Dr Eggleton said. “This resource provides the tools people need to have clear conversations with their doctor to better understand what they need to look out for and what the illness might be”.

The family of the blond-haired toddler with the bright blue eyes, want the resource to be released in Sydnee’s honour to prevent a similar death.

The Northland DHB and Te Tai Tokerau PHO produced “Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor” cards for Whangarei and Kaipara, the mid-North and Far North to be distributed to all GP clinics for their patients.

The resources state the names and contact details of local GP clinics and have a number of questions under the headings: Diagnosis, Treatment, Observation, Complication and Action.

Each of these headings is described in simple terms, rather than medical jargon. It also explains what to do for life threatening conditions, minor and every day illnesses and after-hours.

Former Northland Medical Officer of Health Dr Jonathan Jarman has 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 added that it is important parents seek medical advice if their child becomes unwell.

He described Sydnee’s case as one of the saddest he had seen. “This case was an example of how quickly Meningococcal disease can progress.”

Northland DHB delivered an extensive free vaccination programme to all Northlanders aged 12 months to under 20 years in late 2011 following a community outbreak of Meningococcal C. This resulted in 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 those aged between one and 20 who missed out.

For more information about meningococcal disease consult your GP or go to http://www.health.govt.nz/yourhealth-topics/diseases-and-illnesses/meningococcal-disease

For free advice after hours phone Healthline 0800 611 116.

Ends

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