Kidspot

Two dead, and baby hospitalised with meningococcal

A BABY from the Hunter region of NSW has been hospitalised with the deadly disease, meningococcal, the third person in the region to be diagnosed with the illness in 2017.

The infant is in a stable but critical condition, according to the Newcastle Herald.

However, a 19-year-old girl from Ballarat died from meningococcal on Wednesday night.

The girl, who has not been named at the request of family members, was a student at the Ballarat campus of the Australian Catholic University.

Family members told The Ballarat Courier that, "She was one of the kindest souls to walk this earth and didn't deserve this."

The Victorian Department of Human Services has not yet confirmed which strain of the disease caused the death of the student.

An elderly man from Western Australia has also died from meningococcal, the first fatal case of the disease for the state this year.

The Department of Health has not disclosed any details about the person due to patient confidentiality, but says the man succumbed to the W strain, which has been more common in some parts of Australia, including in WA, over the past three years.

In Australia there are 5 main strains, which now have vaccinations. Unfortunately, the C-strain vaccine, which is the only one available through Australia's free National Immunisation Program (for children 12 months of age), does NOT protect against all strains of the disease.

Professor Robert Booy,  infectious diseases expert from the University of Sydney and the Professor of Paediatrics at Westmead Children's Hospital,  tells Kidspot: "We only see a handful of cases with the C-strain nowadays, and that's due to the vaccinations. This is why it's important to vaccinate against them all."

Meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning) is the most dangerous and deadly. It can lead to death within hours, so if in doubt, act immediately.

Worryingly, the most at-risk are babies, toddlers and teenagers.

Symptoms may include irritability, difficulty walking or lethargy, refusal to eat, a high pitched cry, and a bulging fonteanelle (soft spot on the top of the head).

When meningococcal disease is suspected it's recommended that antibiotic treatment be started before the diagnosis is confirmed by tests. Once confirmed, patients need urgent treatment with intravenous antibiotics.

Bacteria only lives for a short time outside the body so even if you pick them up, it doesn't mean you'll become ill. The danger only occurs if you pick up a strain you're not immunised against, or don't have any natural immunity to, or if your immune system has for some reason become weakened and cannot cope.

The majority of victims make a full recover but sadly 10% of those infected will die, and around 20% are left with permanent disabilities, which can include loss of fingers, toes and limbs, scarring from skin grafts, learning difficulties, sight and hearing problems and to liver and kidney failure.

Do not wait for the purple rash to appear as that is a critical stage of the disease.

Other symptoms include:

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However, if the rash appears, in conjunction with other symptoms such as a high fever, call an ambulance for urgent treatment.

You catch it through mucus, so practice good hygiene.

To minimise the spread of bacteria causing disease, also avoid sharing drink bottles, food, toothbrushes, mouthguards and lip gloss.

Meningococcal peak times are Spring and Winter so now is a good time to not only vaccinate but read up on the symptoms and how to treat it.

If you are in any way concerned that you or someone you know is presenting symptoms consistent with meningococcal disease, call an ambulance.

For more details, to Meningococcal Australia

This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.

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