The Northland District Health Board has hit back at suggestions people were put at risk when the board failed to warn the public of a new strain of meningococcal disease, MenW.

"We question the assertions that we should have warned the public earlier," the DHB says.

"In May we had two unrelated adult cases of MenW which warranted close monitoring. Without definite information it was not appropriate to alarm the community."

It was revealed after DHB warned the public via a media release that a letter was sent by microbiologist Mark Hammer to GPs in May, warning about the strain, six months before the public was told.


"Dr Hammer proactively raised awareness amongst both GPs and secondary care clinicians asking them to be vigilant because the presentation of meningococcus tends to be more atypical than that of other strains," Northland DHB said.

"We have continued surveillance and monitored the disease incidence as is good public health practice and we are in the process of reviewing some historical epidemiological data on invasive meningococcal disease in the hope that this will inform future decisions about our response."

The DHB acknowledged that the Ministry of Health has "recommended the wider public should also boost their knowledge of the disease to ensure those with possible symptoms seek swift medical attention".