Auckland meningococcal disease cases are both B strain

By Martin Johnston

The two Auckland patients who contracted the same B strain of meningococcal disease have now been discharged from hospital. Photo / File
The two Auckland patients who contracted the same B strain of meningococcal disease have now been discharged from hospital. Photo / File

Antibiotics will be offered to all members of a South Auckland church after two attendees were found to have had the same B strain of meningococcal disease, a potentially fatal infection.

And a two-day campaign to give antibiotics to nearly 300 senior students at Mount Aspiring College in Wanaka has been completed today, after a year 12 girl and another in year 13 were admitted to hospitals with the disease. Both are continuing to improve, the Southern District Health Board says.

An Otago Polytechnic nursing student died after her admission to Dunedin Hospital with the disease in mid-August.

One of the church-linked cases is the adult son of pastor Etonia Temo of the Fijian Seventh Day Adventist Church in Atkinson Rd, Otahuhu. The other was a woman who had attended the church but is not a member.

Dr Shanika Perera, of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, said laboratory tests had found the bacteria was in both cases a B strain, but as far as she knew it was not the particular B strain that was dominant in the last New Zealand epidemic of the disease and which led to a mass vaccination campaign.

"We've had lab results back today and both are the same strain. This is likely evidence of a link."

"They attended the same church but they don't know each other. One is not a member of the church, they were just there around this period of time."

"I urge people who attended this church from Saturday, 27 August 2016 to Monday, 5 September 2016 to look out for symptoms of meningococcal disease."

Dr Perera said it was possible there was another person with the disease in the community that both cases had caught the infection from.

"But because meningococcal disease is spread like the common cold through sneezing and coughing it's really hard to determine where they caught the disease from. It may be in the church congregation, or outside in the general community. That's why we say 'likely' link, but we can't be definitively sure."

The public health service will offer antibiotics to all church members - understood to number around 120 - at clinics to be held soon. Depending on the person, the treatment will range from a single dose to a three-day course.

Both patients were treated in hospital and have been discharged.

Temo said of his son, "He has recovered and he's home with me now."

Dr Perera said there had been 16 cases of meningococcal disease notified in the Auckland region this year, compared with 13 in the same period last year.

Institute of Environmental Science and Research data shows that nationally in the 12 months to June there were 70 notifications of the disease, compared with 43 cases in the 12 months to June 2015. This is a statistically significant increase in the per-capita rate, from 1 per 100,000 people, to 1.5 per 100,000.

In April, May and June this year, 14 cases were notified, of which six were the particular B strain that dominated the last New Zealand epidemic of the disease, four were other B strains, two were C and two were Y.

Meningococcal disease

• Two cases linked to South Auckland church caused by the same B strain bacteria

• Church members to be offered antibiotics

• Two Wanaka schoolgirls in hospital

• Nearly 300 senior students given antibiotics

• Disease can cause severe disabilities and death if not treated quickly

• Call a doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116) if the disease is suspected

Symptoms can include:

• Fever

• Vomiting

• Headache

• Stiff neck

• Dislike of bright light

• Rash of small red spots

- NZ Herald

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