Northland Health authorities are once again urging parents and caregivers to have their eligible children vaccinated after a 7-month-old child was diagnosed with meningitis.

"We now know meningococcal W is still circulating in our community, and stress again how important it is that our children are protected," Medical Officer of Health Dr Jose Ortega Benito said.

As of last week 14,001 Northland children had been vaccinated, but 8706 who were eligible for free immunisation had not. In some areas, including the Hokianga, only half of eligible children had been vaccinated.

"If we don't increase the number of eligible children vaccinated we are at risk of another outbreak," Dr Benito said, adding that it was vital that all children aged 9 months to 5 years, and teenagers, be vaccinated against the potentially deadly disease.


"We are targeting children under 5 because this is the population generally most affected. Vaccinating this age group will protect them; the vaccine cannot be given to babies under 9 months.

"Vaccinating 13- to under-20-year-olds is also really important because this is the age group that generally carries the bacterium that causes the disease. Even if they have no symptoms, carriers can infect those around them. Vaccinating this age group will lower the number of carriers in Northland, and stop the spread of meningococcal disease across the entire community."

The DHB was working closely with Hokianga Health to offer community clinics in that area, while most general practices across Northland, and pharmacies in Whangārei, Kerikeri and Kaitaia were offering free vaccinations to eligible children.

All clinic, general practice and pharmacy information is published on the Northland DHB website and Facebook page.

Meningococcal disease symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, a stiff neck, rash, drowsiness or irritability, Dr Benito emphasising the importance of seeking medical help immediately by contacting the local hospital, GP, or Healthline (0800 611-116).