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Meningitis Foundation Says Meningococcal Death In Wellington “Absolutely Tragic”

The Meningitis Foundation says the death of a young person in Wellington from meningococcal disease is a tragedy

The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand says the death of a person who contracted meningococcal disease in Wellington is an absolute tragedy. It has called for Wellingtonians to be aware of the symptoms of the deadly illness, and to get vaccinated if they can.

The Meningitis Foundation’s chair, Gerard Rushton, says the organisation is calling on the Government to make access to both meningococcal vaccines, as well as the pneumococcal vaccine, free for all young people under the age of 25.

The Foundation is also urging all eligible people – particularly those living in halls of residence in their first year of tertiary study – to seek immediate vaccination for both meningococcal B and the ACW & Y strains of the disease.

On 1 March 2023, Pharmac began funding the meningococcal B vaccine (Bexsero) for all children up to 12 months of age (with a relevant catch-up programme), and for people aged 13 to 25 years who are entering into or in their first year of specified close-living situations (with a limited catch-up programme).

The criteria are the same as those for existing meningococcal ACW&Y vaccine, which is also free to eligible groups.

Gerard Rushton says that the Government must also move quickly to drive uptake and widen access to the currently available vaccines for the ACW & Y strains, and for meningococcal B.

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“We need to drive uptake immediately to protect our rangatahi,” says Gerard. “There are many eligible people who don’t know that they have free access to both the vaccines for ACW & Y, and for meningococcal B.”

He stresses that every second counts with meningococcal meningitis, and a person’s condition may get worse very quickly. He says it is critical that people are aware of the symptoms.

“Trust your instincts – if you suspect meningitis, our recommendation is to seek medical help immediately. It’s much better to be safe and overly cautious,” he says.

The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis in adults and children are:

  • A stiff, sore neck.
  • A sensitivity to light, or a dislike of bright lights (an early warning sign of meningitis).
  • A severe headache.
  • If the child or adult is difficult to wake, or in a drowsy and confused state.
  • A fever, sometimes accompanied by cold hands and feet.
  • Aching sore joints.
  • Vomiting – a common symptom of meningitis in both children and adults.
  • Convulsive fits or seizures is characteristic of meningitis.

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