Three young children treated for meningococcal disease in Canterbury

By Martin Johnston

Two of the three children treated for meningococcal disease attended the same early childhood centre.
Two of the three children treated for meningococcal disease attended the same early childhood centre.

Three young children have been treated in hospital for potentially-deadly meningococcal disease.

One is aged 13 months; the others are 4 years old. The three Canterbury children came down with the disease in the past fortnight and have been discharged from hospital.

The 4-year-olds attended the same early childhood centre. Those cases are not thought to be related to the younger child.

It's really important to recognise the signs and symptoms as early as possible because, if left too late, the disease can cause death or permanent disability, such as deafness
Dr Ramon Pink

In September, seven cases of meningococcal disease were reported nationally, compared with 11 in September last year, according to the latest data published by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR).

From January to September there were 53 cases, compared with 49 in the same period last year.

Two of the September 2016 cases were people who attended the Auckland Fijian Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Otahuhu. Both were treated in hospital and discharged.

Two South Island cases were schoolgirls from Wanaka's Mount Aspiring College. They too were treated in hospital.

In August, 20-year-old Otago Polytechnic nursing student Brittany Arthur died from the disease at Dunedin Hospital

Dr Ramon Pink, a medical officer of health, warned that meningococcal disease could develop rapidly.

"It's really important to recognise the signs and symptoms as early as possible because, if left too late, the disease can cause death or permanent disability, such as deafness."

"It can affect anyone - but it's more common in children under the age of 5, teenagers, and young adults. Students in their first year of tertiary education living in student accommodation may also be at higher risk."

The illness, which can cause meningitis and septicaemia, can be treated with antibiotics, but early treatment is vital.

"If you notice any of the symptoms of meningococcal disease or have any other concerns phone your general practice team, even if you have already been seen by a health professional.

"You're better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you seek medical advice early.

"Meningococcal bacteria are difficult to catch as they don't live for very long outside the body. They pass from one person to another through secretions from the nose or throat, during close or prolonged contact such as kissing or from sharing food, drinks and utensils."

Symptoms of meningococcal disease include:
• Rapid onset of symptoms
• Fever, usually more than 38C
• Nausea, vomiting
• Headache, sensitive to light
• Neck pain or stiffness
• Muscle or leg pain
• Confusion or reduced level of consciousness
• Cold hands and feet
• Abnormal skin tone such as pale or blotchy
• A rash

Additional signs in infants can include:
• Poor feeding or not waking for feeds
• Irritability or a high pitched cry
• Bulging fontanelle (soft spots on a baby's skull), neck retraction with back arching
• Fever with cool hands and feet

- NZ Herald

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