Confirmed death from meningococcal disease

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) is reminding the community to be aware of the symptoms of meningococcal disease following the death of a patient at Westmead Hospital.

The man in his 50s died this week from confirmed Meningococcal B strain.

We extend our deepest sympathies to the man’s family and friends at this difficult time.

WSLHD Public Health director Dr Shopna Bag advised that people who were in close contact with the patient have been prescribed clearance antibiotics and provided with information.

There is currently no ongoing risk to the public.

“Meningococcal disease is very uncommon in NSW. Only two other cases have been notified in WSLHD this year, and only two cases for the whole of last year,” Dr Bag said.

“It is important to know the symptoms and act fast if they occur. People with meningococcal disease can become sick very quickly and the disease can be deadly within hours of the first symptom.”

Meningococcal disease usually begins with the sudden onset of fever, often with headache, nausea and drowsiness. Other symptoms may include vomiting, abdominal pain, neck stiffness, photophobia (dislike of bright lights), joint pain, and irritability.

A red-purple rash that does not disappear when pressure is applied is typical, but does not always appear or may only occur late in the disease.

Babies with the infection may be irritable, not feed properly and have an abnormal cry.

“If you suspect meningococcal disease, don’t wait for the rash – see a doctor urgently,” Dr Bag said.

Vaccination is the best means of protection against meningococcal disease. Vaccines against the strains of meningococcal which most commonly cause disease are available in Australia.

As vaccines do not cover all strains of meningococcal bacteria, NSW Health encourages everyone to know the symptoms of meningococcal disease, and to act fast if they occur, even if you or the person you care for has received a meningococcal vaccination.

The NSW Government has provided $800 million extra funding for NSW Health as part a $2.3 billion stimulus package, to help boost ICU capacity and purchase additional services and medical equipment, including PPE.