Perth meningococcal scare

Cathy O'Leary Medical Editor
Student hospitalised with meningococcal

A WA university student is being treated in hospital for meningococcal disease.

It is the second case of the bacterial infection in WA so far this year and follows 18 cases last year.

The WA Health Department said late the student had been hospitalised this week and was making a good recovery.

The department has identified the student’s close contacts and provided them with information, and, where appropriate, antibiotics that minimise the chance that the organism might be passed on to others.

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening illness due to a bacterial infection of the blood or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain.

The bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10-20 per cent of the population at any one time. Very rarely, the bacteria invade the bloodstream and cause serious infections.

The infection is most common in babies and young children, and older teenagers and young adults.

Symptoms include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains.

The incidence of meningococcal disease has decreased significantly in WA over the past decade, with around 20 cases reported each year, down from a peak of 86 cases in 2000.

A vaccine to protect against the C type of meningococcal disease, which in the past was responsible for around 15 per cent of cases in WA, is provided free to children at 12 months of age.

A vaccine against serogroup B meningococcal infection, the most common type, has recently become available on prescription.