Six more cases of meningococcal disease have been reported in Auckland in the past month, affecting patients aged from under 1 to over 80.
Auckland Medical Officer of Health Dr Shanika Perera said two of the six patients had the new "W" strain of meningitis which killed 7-year-old Hikurangi schoolgirl Alexis Albert four months ago and 16-year-old Kerikeri High School student Dion Hodder on October 20.
Dion Hodder was flown to Auckland City Hospital after becoming ill at a St John camp on Motutapu Island.
Another boy who was at a camp on the island last week was tested for meningococcal disease at Middlemore Hospital over the weekend after collapsing when he got home on Friday. But tests found he did not have the disease, and Perera said none of the six Auckland cases were related to camps on Motutapu Island or anywhere else.
The boy's family, who asked to remain anonymous, said Middlemore staff told them they were handling other children as possible cases of meningococcal disease because of the non-specific symptoms of the new "W" strain.
But Counties Manukau District Health Board communications manager Mere Martin said "standard practice" was being followed.
"The diagnosis needs to be considered and a high index of suspicion is required for patients fulfilling symptoms," she said.
"To prove the diagnosis, microbiology is required – blood cultures and cerebrospinal fluid by lumbar puncture.
"All suspected bacterial meningitis patients are routinely isolated for the first 24 hours of their antibiotic treatment after which they are not infectious. This is standard practice and applies to all suspected meningococcal disease (W or otherwise)."
Northland has borne the brunt of the latest outbreak, with three of the nation's six deaths from the "W" strain of the disease in the past year.
Perera said the serogroups of the other four cases in Auckland since October 20 had not yet been identified, but the predominant strain in Auckland this year was serogroup B, not W. None of the group have died.
"The ages of the six cases have widely ranged from less than one to over 80 years of age," she said.
"This has also been observed for cases throughout the year in Auckland.
"This year we have had 34 cases of meningococcal disease to date, exactly the same number as this time last year. These have all been investigated and the service has not identified any links between them."
She said the Auckland Regional Public Health Service was monitoring the number and serogroup of cases carefully, "especially given the recent advisory from the Ministry of Health, alerting health professionals and to the public to the increase in the numbers of W serogroup".
"ARPHS staff work with schools when they have a case to assess risk to staff and students at the school, which is usually very low," she said.
"Often it is only the family at risk, as transmission requires prolonged or very close contact with the person with meningococcal disease.
"Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, and can be difficult to diagnose. It is important to get early treatment."
Any or all of the following:
• Feeling sleepy/confused/delirious
• Loss of consciousness
• Joint pains
• Aching muscles
• Stiff neck
• Dislike of bright lights
• Rash - purple or red spots or bruises.
Additional symptoms in babies and infants
• Being unsettled, floppy or irritable
• Refusing drinks/feeds
• Becoming harder to wake.
• For advice, call Healthline on 0800 611 116.
Source: Auckland Regional Public Health Service