There is a push to increase the awareness of the speed and severity of meningitis after two cases in Canterbury this week, bringing the total to four in the region this year.
The Meningitis Foundation has been calling for a quicker roll out of free vaccines to those living in close quarters.
The Meningococcal B vaccine has just become free for 13 to 25 year olds in their first year in large shared living situations like boarding schools, university halls of residence, and jails.
Some GPs say there has been an increase in interest for the vaccine now the funding has been expanded.
Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners medical director Bryan Betty told Checkpoint meningitis was very rare, but infection could have devastating consequences in some cases.
“It starts often as mild viral-like illness, temperature, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain, but can actually deteriorate very, very quickly into severe headaches, what we see as stiff neck, drowsiness, rash, and and can lead to unconsciousness and death. And it can happen very quickly with it.”
While the cases in Canterbury were a concern, clusters of infection did happen periodically, Dr Betty said.
“One of the things about meningitis is it’s caused by a bug that about 15 percent of us carry normally and we’re perfectly okay.
“We don’t understand why some people sporadically are suddenly affected by it.
“So it’s quite random in the way it occurs, but … it can occur in areas where there is shared living in such as boarding houses, halls of residence, at university, military barracks, where people are at close quarters, and there can be these random cases that start to occur.”
It can spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing utensils.
“The bug itself, the meningitis bug, which lives in the nasal passages, doesn’t survive very long outside of the body, but it can sort of survive on these shared utensils or cough or sneeze and spread,” Dr Betty said.
Last month, Te Whatu Ora also announced free access for the Meningococcal B vaccine had also been expanded for children under five years old.
Dr Betty said including children was important, because there was usually a peak of cases for that group.
“The vaccination has been targeted at where we see meningitis occurring. So that’s the reason for doing it.
Meningitis B accounted for about 50 percent of cases but there were other strains too, he said.
“The free vaccination for the 13 to 25s, you can get both vaccinations B plus the A, Y, W, C – so it’s two vaccinations you get to cover all the strains. And in that age group that’s very, very important.”
His advice to students and families in Canterbury was not to panic but to look at getting vaccinated if they were eligible and had not done so already.
“I think one of the issues here is people aren’t aware of the meningitis vaccine, the fact it’s been opened up and free to these groups.”
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Source by [earlynews24.com]