The Hawke's Bay District Health board is reminding residents to be vigilant after reports that people are presenting possible symptoms of a new strain of meningococcal disease.

While Group B is the most common type, there has been a sharp increase in cases of group W meningococcal disease (MenW).

A DHB spokesperson says there have been no reported outbreaks in Hawke's Bay, but advised people to remain cautious.

This year, there have been 24 MenW cases to November 5 nationwide, including six deaths.


Twelve cases were reported last year, including three deaths.

Usually, there are zero to six cases per year of MenW.

Meningococcal disease can cause death or permanent disability, such as deafness.

It can affect anyone but is more common in children under the age of 5, teenagers and young adults.

There were 112 cases of meningococcal disease nationwide last year and there have been 96 so far this year.

The annual number of cases had increased steadily since 2014, when 45 cases were reported.

Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay , said the wider public should also boost their knowledge of the disease to ensure those with possible symptoms seek swift medical attention.

"We are keen to encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with the most frequent symptoms of this nasty disease because quick action can help to save lives," McElnay said.


"Meningococcal disease can progress very quickly and may initially look like other illnesses, for instance a flu-like illness."

Some common symptoms include a high fever, headache, fatigue and joint and muscle pains.

More specific symptoms include vomiting, a stiff neck and a rash consisting of reddish-purple pin-prick spots or bruises.

Northland has been the worst affected, with seven cases so far this year, including three deaths. Four of the cases were reported there in September and October.

"I want to express my deepest condolences, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, to those who have lost loved ones to this dangerous disease," McElnay said.

The Ministry of Health said that 20,000 doses of vaccine would be made available in Northland, but hoped that more would become available to vaccinate the entire population.