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Twelve cases of a deadly in­fec­tious dis­ease have been re­ported in the Bay of Plenty this year. The 12 cases of meningo­coc­cal dis­ease were re­ported in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Board ar­eas, which cov­ers the Tau­ranga, Ro­torua, Taupo¯ and Whakata¯ ne ar­eas. In 2017, there were 11 cases and in 2016, there were eight.

How­ever, the Min­istry of Health is warn­ing of a par­tic­u­larly deadly strain of the in­fec­tious dis­ease known as group W (MenW).

Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Health, Dr Caro­line McEl­nay, said there had been a sharp in­crease in MenW cases na­tion­ally since the se­cond half of 2017, with 12 cases re­ported in the whole of 2017, in­clud­ing three deaths.

This year, there have been 24 cases, in­clud­ing six deaths. Typ­i­cally, there are up to six cases per year of MenW, Dr McEl­nay said.

In the Bay of Plenty and Lakes dis­tricts, there have been four cases this year to date. In both 2017 and 2016 there were none.

“This MenW strain is associated with high mor­tal­ity rates and af­fects all age groups. North­land has been the worst af­fected, with seven cases so far this year, in­clud­ing three deaths,” Dr McEl­nay said.

Toi Te Ora Pub­lic Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Dr Phil Shoemack said the ear­lier peo­ple were di­ag­nosed, the bet­ter treat­ment they could re­ceive.

Early symp­toms could be mis­taken for in­fluenza. How­ever, the big dif­fer­ence was the rapid de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of a per­son with it, Shoemack said.

“This bug causes se­vere ill­ness very quickly, with an amaz­ingly rapid on­set. Lit­er­ally, one hour could be com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the next.”

Ur­gent med­i­cal treat­ment was cru­cial, Shoemack said.

“A fair pro­por­tion of peo­ple who get meningo­coc­cal dis­ease, even if they sur­vive, many end up with po­ten­tial life-long prob­lems. It can af­fect their hear­ing, it can af­fect their brain func­tion and it can also cause blood poi­son­ing. In se­vere cases, it can re­sult in the in­di­vid­ual end­ing up with am­pu­ta­tion of fin­gers,

toes or limbs.” There have been 96 meningo­coc­cal dis­ease cases na­tion­ally.

The year prior there were 112. The Min­istry of Health states the annual num­ber of cases in New Zealand has in­creased steadily since 2014, when 45 cases were re­ported.

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