A woman died of meningococcal disease in Waikato Hospital last week but the local district health board said there is no need to be concerned.

The 24-year-old woman died on Friday, the first death from meningococcal disease in the Waikato District Health Board region in the last five years.

Dr Richard Wall from the Waikato DHB's public health team said the risk of contracting the disease within the general public is low.

"Close contact with a case (such as living in the same household or close kissing) is required for a person to be considered at risk of getting the disease," Wall said.


"All close contacts of this person have been followed up and provided with information and where appropriate prophylactic antibiotics.

"However, the bacteria which cause meningococcal disease is quite common, and many people carry it without getting sick themselves but can pass it on to others."

The woman had meningococcal septicaemia or blood poisoning and the Waikato DHB is urging anyone who has the following symptoms to seek medical help.

• Slurred speech or confusion; extreme shivering or muscle pain; passing no urine (for a day); severe breathlessness; it feels like you are going to die; skin mottled or discoloured.

Waikato DHB spokeswoman Lydia Aydon said there were no delays in getting the woman to her care from her arrival in the Emergency Department.

"Everything that could be done was undertaken straight away," Aydon said.

"This is an infrequent event and early recognition of the symptoms by people in the community, and presenting early for medical help is really important."

Last year, the Government launched an urgent immunisation programme to fight an outbreak of meningococcal disease in Northland, which has had the highest number of cases and deaths of the new MenW strain.


The then-new strain, MenW, has resulted in the deaths of six people nationwide in the past year, three of those occurring in the Northland region.

One of those, Alexis Albert, died in July after the disease took control of her body and killed her six days after she celebrated her seventh birthday.

Her mother Rowshae Albert told the Herald yesterday the Government's announcement was welcoming news but gut-wrenching following Alexis' death.

"I was actually quite hurt hearing that [the Government] are actually taking this seriously," she said.

"It has been going in the back of my mind, why didn't the Government or the health officials announce this actually during the winter season where it started peaking?

"I can't turn back time, I can only look at the positives and they're actually doing something about it and now other families can do something about it."

The vaccination targeted people aged nine months to four years (inclusive), and those aged 13 to 19 years (inclusive).

They would not have to pay for the vaccine, but to be eligible they would have to be a Northland resident.

The cost was commercially sensitive, but it would cost $700,000 to roll out the vaccination programme.