Meningococcal vaccine approved

Tammy Penn knows how quickly meningococcal disease can take hold after almost dying from the bacterial infection four months ago.

The Perth mother, 47, was rushed to Armadale Hospital by her partner after her headaches and stomach upset spiralled out of control.

She was in septic shock by the time he carried her unconscious into the emergency unit.

"My body had started to crash by the time they got me into the building," Ms Penn said. "One of the doctors said he did not know how I survived because I was so sick."

Meningococcal disease can cause death within hours if not treated quickly, and is most common in children under five, teenagers and young adults.

It can appear as meningitis, which is inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or as blood poisoning.

This week doctors welcomed the Australian approval of the first vaccine against meningococcal B, the most common type. There is a Federal Government-funded vaccine against type C, but until now there had been no vaccine against the B strain, which causes about 20 deaths a year in Australia. WA had 12 cases of meningococcal B last year - three-quarters of all meningococcal cases - and one case so far this year.

Perth infectious diseases expert Clay Golledge said the new vaccine Bexsero would save lives but the cost - possibly up to $800 for a childhood course - was out of reach for most families unless the Government funded it.

The West Australian

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