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Meningococcal case confirmed in Palmerston North


A person with meningococcal disease has been admitted to Palmerston North Hospital this week. The case was confirmed by Medical Officer of Health Dr Robert Weir, who said MidCentral District Health Board’s Public Health team is following up with people who may have been in contact with the patient.

This is the second case of meningococcal disease in the MidCentral region in two weeks, though there is no evidence at this stage that the two are linked.

“Public Health has offered preventive antibiotics to those who may have been in contact with the patient, as is the standard procedure for close contacts of a case of meningococcal disease.” Dr Weir said.

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that causes two illnesses: meningitis (an infection of the membranes that cover the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning).

“Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. It can look like the flu early on but quickly gets much worse. It is important for anyone with symptoms to seek urgent medical attention,” Dr Weir said.

Symptoms include some or all of the following: fever, headache, vomiting, feeling sleepy, confused and delirious, loss of consciousness, joint pains, aching muscles, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, or rashes, purple or red spots, or bruises.

Other symptoms in babies and infants include being unsettled, floppy or irritable, refusing drinks and feeds, and becoming harder to wake.

Children who have previously received meningococcal vaccination can still get meningococcal disease because the vaccine does not protect against all types of meningococcal bacteria. Dr Weir advises the public to be on the lookout for signs or symptoms of meningococcal illness even if your child has previously been vaccinated.

If you think you or someone close to you might have meningococcal disease, it is recommended that you contact your GP (by phone first) or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for more advice. It is important you tell your GP that you think you might have meningococcal disease before going in to the practice.

The Ministry of Health website also has useful information: https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/meningococcal-disease-including-meningitis

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