A child is in a stable condition in a Hunter hospital with confirmed meningococcal disease. Close contacts of the case have been prescribed clearance antibiotics to prevent further transmission of the disease. There are no links between this case and any previous cases.
This is the fifth case of meningococcal disease from the Hunter New England region this year. In 2016 there were ten confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in the Hunter New England Local Health District.
Public Health Physician Dr Tony Merritt stressed that while meningococcal disease is a life-threatening illness, in most cases, early detection and treatment resulted in a complete recovery.
"Meningococcal disease can be potentially deadly and if anyone suspects symptoms, they should seek medical attention immediately," Dr Merritt said.
The first signs of meningococcal disease may include pain in the legs, cold hands and feet and abnormal skin colour. Later symptoms may include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights, nausea and vomiting, a rash of reddish-purple spots or bruises, and drowsiness.
Babies with the infection can be irritable, not feed properly and have an abnormal cry.
Several strains of meningococcal bacteria cause disease in Australia. Previously the meningococcal C strain was common, but this is now rare following introduction of meningococcal C vaccine on the National Immunisation Program in 2003. Other strains do still occur, however, and people who have had the meningococcal C vaccine should still be on the lookout for symptoms.
Meningococcal C vaccination is free and recommended as part of routine childhood immunisation at 12 months of age.
Meningococcal infection does not spread easily. It is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying it and close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.