The Northland District Health Board said today an 82-year-old woman w' />

Northland's outbreak of an infectious disease has resulted in a third death.

The Northland District Health Board said today an 82-year-old woman who had meningococcal disease was admitted to Whangarei Hospital last Thursday and died later that evening.

News of the death comes on the eve of a mass-vaccination campaign in the region against type C meningococcal disease.

The woman from Whangarei district had become acutely unwell that day and deteriorated rapidly, despite treatment.

Public health staff have offered preventative treatment to the woman's close contacts.

Dr Clair Mills, Northland DHB medical officer of health, said this case does not have any clear links to other meningococcal cases in Northland or elsewhere.

"This year there have been nine cases of meningococcal disease in Northland. Six of these were caused by Group C bacteria and two others ... by Group B bacteria. We are waiting to hear back from [a] laboratory about the meningococcal type for this last case."

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"We are currently in a situation defined as a community outbreak. This is why we've launched a meningococcal C vaccination campaign to help control this outbreak and prevent more cases of disease. However people still need to be very alert for signs and symptoms of the disease."

Symptoms can include stiff neck, painful limbs, bad headache, vomiting, fever, drowsiness, a baby refusing feeds, and a rash.

Urgent medical care should be sought for suspected meningococcal disease, which is readily treated with antibiotics if detected early.

Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterium (germ) Neisseria meningitidis. It can cause meningitis (infection of the membrane around the brain) or septicaemia (blood poisoning).

It is a serious disease and can sometimes cause death or permanent disability, such as deafness. There are different groups of meningococcal disease - A, B, C, Y and W - but the signs and symptoms are the same for all.

Young children, teenagers and young adults are most at risk of this disease. The meningococcal C vaccination campaign aims to vaccinate at least 85 per cent of everyone in Northland aged 12 months to under 20 years. The campaign will run for a ten week period, from September 26 to December 16.

All children and young people in schools will be offered free vaccination, starting with high school students. Children 12 months to under 5 years will be offered vaccination by their family doctor (GP). Youth out of school under 20 years will be able to get the vaccine from their GP, or attend special clinics in their area.

Prompt treatment with antibiotics (usually by injection) can prevent death or permanent disability such as damage to the brain or deafness.

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"Meningococcal disease can make you sick very quickly, so it is recommended, especially if your child is sick, that you should check them often and seek medical attention without delay," said Dr Mills.