Vac­cine push to tar­get late teens

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Health - Dr Tom Milden­hall

MENINGOCOCCAL dis­ease rep­re­sents a rare but very se­ri­ous ill­ness.

For­tu­nately, how­ever, it is not com­mon, is eas­ily treat­able when iden­ti­fied early and vac­cines are avail­able to min­imise risk.

Con­tin­ued vig­i­lance aware­ness from com­mu­nity mem­bers and clin­i­cians to en­sure early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of new meningococcal cases re­mains vi­tal.

Al­though un­com­mon, meningococcal dis­ease can de­velop very quickly and is fa­tal in 5-10 per cent of cases.

Pa­tient re­cov­ery is de­pen­dent on early di­ag­no­sis and com- mence­ment of an­tibi­otic treat­ment. How­ever, the dis­ease can be chal­leng­ing to iden­tify ini­tially, as it can ap­pear sim­i­lar to other milder ill­nesses.

Symp­toms may in­clude high fevers, headache, neck stiff­ness, nau­sea and vom­it­ing, drowsi­ness and con­fu­sion.

Th­ese fea­tures are some­times ac­com­pa­nied by a red-pur­ple spotty rash that ap­pears like small points of bleeding un­der the skin.

The bac­te­ria that cause meningococcal dis­ease com­prise a num­ber of dif­fer­ent serogroups.

Since 2003, a vac­cine for meningococcal serogroup C has been part of the stan­dard child­hood im­mu­ni­sa­tion sched­ule.

As a result, the in­ci­dence of meningococcal dis­ease has de­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in WA, with about 20 cases now re­ported each year, down from a peak of 86 cases in 2000.

In 2016, meningococcal serogroup W be­came the most com­mon cause of meningococcal in­fec­tion in WA and Aus­tralia, and in late Jan­uary, the State Gov­ern­ment an­nounced a statewide meningococcal serogroup W vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram

The pro­gram will tar­get 15-19 year olds, as this group has the high­est rates of car­ry­ing the meningococcal bac­te­ria.

The vac­cine will cover the A, C, W and Y serogroups and will com­mence in school term 2, run­ning over a three-year pe­riod.

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