Doctors are warning Kiwis to be alert after a person in Wellington died from meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection that can cause meningitis, could cause death or permanent disability, such as deafness. It can affect anyone but is more common in young children, adolescents, and young adults.
Symptoms include fever, cold hands and feet, vomiting, muscle aches and joint aches.
But there is one feature of the disease which GPNZ chair Dr Bryan Betty is urging people to be very aware of.
“One feature of meningitis we get very worried about is it can deteriorate very, very quickly,” Dr Betty said.
“So if there is any signs of light sensitivity, neck stiffness, severe headache, along with a fever or the development of a rapid rash or drowsiness, you need to get immediate medical attention. And if it is drowsiness, in association with that very severe headache and fever, an ambulance should be called.”
For parents of young children they are advised to watch out for in particular is a fever in association with stopping feeding or reducing fluid intake. Also if the child is starting to look drowsy and may be difficult to wake up.
People are urged to get vaccinated to protect themselves from meningitis.
Tamariki under one year old can get a free meningococcal B vaccine, however, those under five who missed out (during the COVID-19 pandemic) can still get a free vaccine until September 2025.
It’s also free for rangatahi aged 13-25 who are about to move into their first year of close-living quarters, including university residences, boarding schools, prison, or military barracks.
Following the death in Wellington, the Meningitis Foundation called on the Government to make access to both meningococcal vaccines, as well as the pneumococcal vaccine, free for all young people under the age of 25.
The Meningitis Foundation’s chair Gerard Rushton said the Government must also move quickly to drive uptake and widen access to the currently available vaccines.
“We need to drive uptake immediately to protect our rangatahi. There are many eligible people who don’t know that they have free access to both the vaccines for ACW & Y, and for meningococcal B,” Rushton said in a statement.
He stresses that every second counts with meningococcal meningitis.
“Trust your instincts – if you suspect meningitis, our recommendation is to seek medical help immediately,” Rushton said.
“It’s much better to be safe and overly cautious.”