Health alert follows young victim of meningococcal disease

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Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has sent staff to a Motutapu Island Camp to provide protective antibiotics and assess the risk to others after a young man attending the Camp died from suspected meningococcal disease last fortnight in Auckland City Hospital.

Few at risk

There are 190 people at the St John Youth Camp on the Island, but only a few people are considered to be ‘close contacts’ and at risk of infection.

ARPHS Medical Officer of Health Dr Denise Barnfather said that a Public Health nurse and doctor have been to the Island to give antibiotics to the young people who shared the same sleeping quarters and another person possibly exposed in the first aid room.

A friend of the young man was taken off the Island as part of the medical evacuation last night, has been given antibiotics, but is not considered unwell.

“This is very tragic for the family of the young man who died, and for everyone at the Camp. The risk of the young people or staff being infected is very low, as the meningococcal bacterium is only spread by very close contact, or many hours of contact, with an infected person,” she said.

St John’s care

The other young people at the Camp are safe and are being well looked after by St John, who are sending additional support staff. Parents were told of the young man, and given information on symptoms for when the young people return home,” Dr Barnfather said.

Northland’s Public Health Unit is talking to the family about who else might have been at risk in the previous seven days in which the young man was infectious.

“Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, and can be difficult to diagnose, so we are providing information to the young people and parents so they can be alert for symptoms. It can look like the flu early on but quickly gets much worse. It is important to get early treatment,” Dr Barnfather said.

Some symptoms

Symptoms include some or all of the following: fever, headache, vomiting, feeling sleepy/confused/delirious, loss of consciousness, joint pains, aching muscles, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, rash – purple or red spots or bruises. Additional symptoms in babies and infants include being unsettled, floppy or irritable, refusing drinks/feeds and becoming harder to wake.

“If you or anyone you know has these symptoms, don’t wait. Call a doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116) immediately,” Dr Barnfather said.

There is an average of 29 cases of meningococcal disease annually in Auckland, however numbers varied from seven to 47 in 2017.

For more information on meningococcal disease visit the ARPHS web page here.

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