PUBLIC HEALTH | Boy, 7, dies of meningococcal: ‘A tragic event’

The death of a boy, 7, in south-west Sydney from suspected meningococcal has led to calls for parents to be vigilant of symptoms. So far this year, there have been nine confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in this region.

South-Western Sydney Local Health District’s Public Health Director, DrNaru Pal, said while cases were rare, meningococcal increases in spring.

“This is tragic and our sympathies are with the young boy’s family at this time,” he said. “Clearance antibiotics have been prescribed to close contacts to eradicate any meningococcal bacteria they may be carrying to prevent further transmission.

“Meningococcal can occur at any time but we do typically see a peak in cases in spring so we urge people to be aware of symptoms and to act fast.”

Dr Pal said meningococcal usually begins with sudden fever, often with headache, nausea and drowsiness. Neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and a reddish-purple rash or bruises may develop rapidly. Infected babies may be irritable, not feed properly and have an abnormal cry.

We typically see a peak in the meningococcal disease in spring.

Dr NARU PAL, Public Health Director

Meningococcal does not spread easily. It’s spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person carrying the bacteria. Close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.

The vaccine

  • Since July 1, the government has expanded infants’ protection under the National Immunisation Program to include meningococcal A, W and Y disease, as well as meningococcal C protection since 2003.
  • The NSW Government has funded meningococcal ACWY vaccine for older teens in schools since 2017 in response to an increase in meningococcal W.
  • Single free meningococcal ACWY vaccine given to years 11 and 12 last year and years 10 and 11 this year. Ongoing.
  • Teens 15 to 19 who didn’t get ACWY vaccine at school can get a free shot from a GP.