Medicine

Meningococcal vaccine for all 1-19 year olds in the NT

Territorians are urged to take advantage of the free meningococcal ACWY vaccine available to all children and young adults aged 1-19 years in the NT.

Dr Vicki Krause from the Centre for Disease Control said that while the meningococcal outbreak late in 2017 in Central Australia has come to an end, there still remains higher than normal rates of meningococcal disease in the NT and across the nation. To address these high rates, the NT has a free Northern Territory Government funded meningococcal ACWY vaccine program for all residents aged 1 to 19 years.

Whilst Meningococcal disease is considered a rare disease it can be a very serious condition. Invasive Meningococcal disease can develop very quickly with meningitis and causes death in 8 to 10% of cases. It also can lead to hearing loss, fits, limb amputations, renal failure and skin scarring. It is very important that people are diagnosed early and treated promptly with antibiotics to improve the chances of a full recovery.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease include:

  • fever
  • stiff neck
  • headache
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • rash of tiny red or purple spots or larger bruises
  • joint or muscle pains
  • drowsiness, confusion or even coma.

“It is estimated that one out of every 10 people carry the bacteria in their nose or throat at any one time,” Dr Krause said.

“Although the carriers remain well they are able to spread the bacteria to others who may become unwell very quickly.” Carriers under certain circumstances can develop invasive disease.

Meningococcal disease is caused mainly by five different strains: A, B, C, W and Y. Until recently in the NT there have been one to four cases per year with the majority being B strains but in the past year strain W, a more aggressive infection, has predominated and Y is also increasing.

There have been six cases of invasive meningococcal disease notified so far in 2018 in the NT (four Meningococcal W strain, one Meningococcal B and one not identifiable).

The most recent case of meningococcal disease in the Northern Territory was notified on 1 August 2018, a W strain in an adult female in Darwin, who had complex medical issues, and died from the disease.

“All Territorian children are routinely given a vaccine that prevents meningococcal A, C, W and Y strains at 12 months of age as part of the National Immunisation Program. Now a vaccine that protects against A, C, W and Y strains is also available free for all NT children and young adults aged 1-19 years,” Dr Krause said.

“Vaccines to protect against meningococcal B can be purchased privately with a prescription from your local doctor.”

Dr Krause strongly encourages all age-eligible Territorians to take full advantage of the free ACWY vaccine. The vaccine is available through your local general practitioner, Aboriginal community controlled clinic, urban community care centres or remote health service.

Source: NT Government

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