AN adult has died in a WA hospital after contracting the W strain of meningococcal disease.
The incident takes the number of deaths in WA this year from the disease to three, two from the W strain and one from the B strain.
There have been 25 reported cases in 2019, down from 41 in 2018.
Meningococcal bacteria are not easily spread from person-to-person. The bacterium is present in droplets discharged from the nose and throat when coughing or sneezing, but is not spread by saliva and does not survive more than a few seconds in the environment.
“Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10-20 per cent of the population at any one time,” WA Health said in a statement.
“Very rarely, the bacteria invade the bloodstream or tissues and cause serious infections.
“Sometimes – but not always – symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises.
“Symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease 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, poor feeding and rash are important signs.
Although treatable with antibiotics, meningococcal infection can progress very rapidly, so it is important that anyone experiencing these symptoms seeks medical attention promptly.
With appropriate treatment, most people with the disease recover, although around 5-10 per cent will die and around 15 per cent may experience complications such as hearing loss, or gangrene requiring skin grafts or amputations.