In November there were two confirmed cases of the potentially deadly meningococcal disease in Queensland. One in Brisbane, a 20-month-old boy with an “invasive” strain of the illness, and another on the Sunshine Coast, an elderly patient with a “rare” strain of the disease.
It prompted the state’s Public Health Unit to issue a warning to Queenslanders to be on the lookout for symptoms but not to “be alarmed”.
The young child had been at a childcare centre in Kedron in the days before being diagnosed and treated at the Prince Charles Hospital. Doctor James Smith told 9 News there was a”low risk” of children who were exposed contracting meningococcal but parents should be aware of the symptoms.
Meanwhile, the president of the Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ), Doctor Richard Kidd, told ABC News the number of “W strain cases”, that the elderly patient had been diagnosed with, was increasing in the state.
“Queensland thankfully has been spared this to some extent until very recently but it’s been an emerging and increasing problem in other states,” Dr Kidd said.
“Now we’ve got this one that’s emerged within the W group that is very nasty.”
It’s a good time to re-familarise yourself with the symptoms. According Better Health “early diagnosis of invasive meningococcal disease is extremely important”.
These are the symptoms to look out for:
- Loss of appetite
- Neck stiffness
- Discomfort when looking at bright lights (photophobia)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Aching or sore muscles
- Painful or swollen joints
- Difficulty walking
- General malaise
- Moaning, unintelligible speech
- Rash with red or purple pinprick spots or larger bruises.
Better Health has a list of symptoms that are specific to young children which is worth checking if you have kids under the age of five.
If somebody you know has some of these signs and symptoms, and “seems sicker than you would expect with a normal infection”, seek medical help immediately.
“In the very early stages, meningococcal disease can appear to be like other, less serious illnesses,” Better Health said.
If the person seems to be getting worse, suddenly develops a rash or becomes drowsy then call triple-0 or take the patient to a hospital emergency room.
Meningococcal is a preventable disease. A public vaccination program is in place for children against the C strain in Australia but not the A and W strain.
AMAQ wants the Federal Government to also fund vaccinations for the other two versions of the disease. Until now, the C strain was thought to be the worst.
“What’s happened is that because Australia is at the end of the supply chain we can’t get that vaccine at the moment because England and some other countries are gobbling it all up and they’re in front of us in the supply chain,” Dr Kidd said.
“All children should be protected against it and the Federal Government should put this on the National Immunisation Plan.”
If you need an after hours doctor Brisbane homeowners trust call House Call Doctor at 13 55 66.