Mataku-Ariki de Roo vividly remembers the moment she realised her 7-month-old baby had more than just a cold.

It was 13 years ago that her daughter Tamia Nuku survived meningococcal disease.

The Rotorua mum was living in Christchurch at the time and had taken baby Tamia to the doctor as she had "fluey" symptoms, but left thinking it was "just a cold".

A few days had passed when de Roo noticed a small rash on Tamia and she immediately "kicked into gear".

Mataku-Ariki de Roo (right) with her daughter Tamia. Photo / Stephen Parker
Mataku-Ariki de Roo (right) with her daughter Tamia. Photo / Stephen Parker

"I ran to the fridge to check a magnet I had been given from Plunket," de Roo said.

She said the magnet had warnings for Meningitis and she then used the "glass test" to see if the rash would fade under pressure, but the rash was still visible through a glass.

"We were straight in the car and off to the hospital," she said.

De Roo said it was "mumma's intuition" but she knew Tamia had Meningitis, and the hospital staff acted quickly to treat her baby once she was diagnosed with the B strain of meningococcal disease.

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"The rash spread so quickly. In a matter of minutes she was covered from head to toe.

"I remember it so vividly, it will stick with me for life," she said.

Tamia was put into isolation while she was treated but de Roo said knowing an elderly woman in the hospital room next to her baby had died from the same disease was "quite daunting".


After a few days in hospital the worst was over and baby Tamia had survived.

For the next few months, Tamia was monitored to make sure she would not suffer any side effects, including in her learning and development.

The now 13-year-old has a clean bill of health and de Roo puts it down to the education she received from Aranui Plunket and her early intervention.

De Roo said knowing there was a new vaccine for that strain of meningococcal disease was a relief and she hoped Bexsero would be funded in New Zealand in the near future.

The mum of four said she wanted more families to educate themselves on the signs of the disease and have the confidence to take their children to the doctor or hospital if they were worried.

"Meningococcal B can be devastating, if it can be prevented then why not?"

The glass test

- Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin
- Spots/rash may fade at first
- Keep checking
- Fever with spots/rash that do not fade under pressure is a medical emergency
- Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately