Northland health officials are urging all parents and caregivers to have their eligible children vaccinated after a seven-month-old Northland child has been diagnosed with the potentially fatal meningococcal W disease.
Three people from Northland have died from the disease since the MenW strain came into the country in the middle of 2018 with the latest case the only other one in the region. This time the child, from the Hokianga, was treated and discharged.
Since the outbreak of the disease Northland District Health board has been running a MenW vaccination campaign aimed at immunising children and youths aged between 9 months and 5 years - the vulnerable young children - or 13 and 20 years - the cohort of children who spread this disease the most.
"We now know that 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 March 18, 14,001 children in Northland had been vaccinated against meningococcal W through the outbreak campaign, which leaves a further 8706 eligible children who can take advantage of the free vaccine in the region.
In order to protect children it is vital that all those aged 9 months to under 5 years and 13 to under 20 year olds are vaccinated against this deadly disease, Benito said.
There are some areas in Northland, such as the Hokianga, where only 50 per cent of the eligible children are immunised, he said.
"If we don't increase the number of eligible children vaccinated we are at risk of another outbreak," he said.
''We are targeting children under 5 because this is the population that is generally most affected by meningococcal disease. Vaccinating this age group will protect them from getting meningococcal disease. 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 district health board is working closely with Hokianga Health to offer community clinics in that area. Most general practices across Northland and a pharmacy in Whangārei, Kerikeri and Kaitaia are offering free meningococcal W vaccination to eligible children. All clinic, general practice and pharmacy information is published on the Northland DHB website and Facebook page.
* Symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, rash, drowsiness or irritability
* It is important to seek medical help immediately if you or your child has any of the symptoms of meningococcal disease
* Contact your local hospital, GP or call Healthline 0800 611 116.