Meningococcal Disease | Public Health Advice

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The General Public are hereby advised to take extra precaution while travelling. The Pacific wide Public Health Alert for countries to take extra precautions and strengthen Public Health Surveillance due to increasing number of meningococcal disease is reported by New Zealand (mainly Northland) and Australia Health Authorities.

Below are some facts about Meningococcal Disease:

Meningococcal disease is a medical and public health emergency. Early treatment with antibiotics and supportive care is vital.

What are the symptoms?

Meningococcal disease can be difficult to diagnose because it can look like other illnesses, however symptoms can develop quickly and include:

  • stiff neck
  • high fever (above 38°C)
  • sensitivity to light
  • confusion
  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • severe muscle and/or joint pains

For young children or babies, it’s important to watch out for signs of:

  • fever
  • pale or blotchy complexion
  • vomiting
  • lethargy (blank staring, floppiness, inactivity, being hard to wake)
  • being restless and irritable
  • Refusing to drink or breastfeed
  • Bulging fontanelle

The typical meningococcal rash doesn’t disappear with gentle pressure on the skin. Not all people with meningococcal disease get a rash or the rash may occur late in the disease.

People who have symptoms of meningococcal disease should see a doctor or nearest health facility urgently, especially if there is persistent fever, irritability, drowsiness, or a child is not feeding normally.

How is it spread?

Meningococcal bacteria are not easily spread from person to person and the bacteria do not survive well outside the human body.

The bacteria are passed between people in the secretions from the back of the nose and throat.

 Who is at risk?

While the disease can affect anyone, those at higher risk include:

  • Household contacts of patients with meningococcal disease who lived in the same house in the 7 days before the onset of illness in the patient, and until s/he has completed 24 hours of appropriate antibiotic treatment
  • Infants, small children, adolescents and young adults
  • Travellers to countries with high rates of meningococcal disease

How is it prevented?

Maintaining good hygiene at all times is key to stopping the spread of meningococcal disease. Good hygiene practices include:

  • Washing hands often with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief when coughing and sneezing.
  • Safely disposing of tissues in the bin and washing soiled handkerchiefs daily with soap and water
  • Not sharing cups, water bottles, drinks, other utensils, cigarettes and other items that may be contaminated with saliva (spit).