AN ADULT has been hospitalised after being diagnosed with a new virulent strain of the potentially deadly meningococcal disease.
The Department of Health has notified close contacts of the patient of the serogroup W meningococcal diagnosis.
With appropriate treatment, most people with the disease recover, although around five to 10 per cent will die and around 15 per cent may experience complications such as hearing loss, or gangrene requiring skin grafts or amputations.
There have been fourteen cases reported to date in 2018, comprising nine serogroup W, three serogroup B and two serogroup Y meningococcal infections.
A total of 46 cases were notified in WA in 2017, double the number reported in 2016 and the most in any year since 2005.
The incidence of meningococcal disease had previously decreased significantly in WA – down from a peak of 86 cases in 2000 to a low of 16 cases in 2013 – but is now increasing again due to the emergence of new virulent strains of serogroup W, and to a lesser extent serogroup Y, meningococcal bacteria.
Symptoms may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains. Young children may not complain of symptoms, so fever, pale or blotchy complexion, vomiting, lethargy (blank staring, floppiness, inactivity, being hard to wake, or poor feeding) and rash are important signs.
A vaccine to protect against the serogroup C type of meningococcal disease, which is now very rare, continues to be provided free to children at 12 months of age.
As a result of the increase in serogroup W and Y disease in WA over the past three years, a funded state-wide meningococcal ACWY vaccination program for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years commenced in 2017.
In 2018 and 2019, the program is targeting incoming Year 10 students in schools, while other individuals aged 15-19 years can currently continue to access free catch-up vaccination through other immunisation providers.