THREE children in Gladstone have been diagnosed with meningococcal disease.
Queensland Health confirmed it is investigating the cases.
The first child is in a serious but stable condition in Royal Children's Hospital. The other two children are in Rockhampton Hospital, one in a serious but stable condition and the other stable and improving.
Public Health Physician Dr Sonya Bennett said the cases were a timely reminder for the community to be alert to the symptoms of meningococcal disease, but not alarmed.
"All close contacts of the cases have been identified by Queensland Health and offered antibiotics to clear the meningococcal bacteria from anyone who might be carrying it in their nose or throat and prevent them from passing it onto some one else who may develop disease," Dr Bennett said.
"The first child attends a child care centre and the other two children have indirect links to this child care centre. Because of these indirect links, it is apparent that other children and staff who attend the centre may be carriers of the meningococcal bacteria."
Dr Bennett said public health staff would broaden the group of contacts being offered antibiotics to include all the children and staff at the child care centre.
"We are working closely with the children's child care facility to provide verbal and written information to all families and to provide the antibiotics appropriately, in accordance with national public health guidelines," she said.
"I want to reassure parents that meningococcal disease is not highly infectious and Queensland Health will make direct contact with those in need of follow up; this is not a community wide outbreak demonstrated by the indirect link between the first case and the second two cases."
One of the children attends Goodstart Early Learning Kin Kora. The other two have indirect links to the centre.
A Goodstart Early Learning spokesperson said: "We were concerned to learn this week that a child attending Goodstart Early Learning Kin Kora had been diagnosed with meningococcal disease. We will continue to support the child and the family in any way we can."
"Goodstart has contacted the relevant regulatory authorities. Health department workers have visited the centre twice this week and provided information and medication to our families and staff. At this stage no further cases of meningococcal disease have been detected at the centre, however our staff will remain vigilant in monitoring for symptoms. The health and safety of our children and staff is our top priority."
Dr Bennett said information about the disease and its symptoms would be provided to all families at the centre, and anyone with concerns is encouraged to call the 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) hotline.
She said meningococcal disease was a severe but uncommon infection caused by a bacterial germ.
"About 10 per cent of people carry meningococcal bacteria in their throats and noses without having any symptoms," Dr Bennett said.
"The bacteria are spread via droplets from the nose or throat shed during coughing and sneezing, but close and prolonged contact with a carrier is usually needed to become infected," she said.
"It is important to emphasise that this is not a virus, and it does not spread easily.
"Very few people go on to develop the disease, and most of these make a complete recovery."
A vaccine against one strain of meningococcal bacteria has been offered to all children, at their first birthday, since 2003.
However, the vaccine cannot prevent all cases of the disease. For this reason, the public, especially parents, need to be aware of the main symptoms of the disease.
- a high fever
- severe headache
- muscle and joint pains
- a rash that emerges and spreads rapidly. The rash initially looks like very small bruises just under the surface of the skin.
Dr Bennett said young babies may also have other symptoms, such as refusing to feed, irritability and dislike of being handled, and lethargy.
"Anyone with these symptoms, in particular a rapidly spreading bruise-like rash, should be taken promptly for medical assessment," she said.
In 2012 to date, there have been 16 confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in Queensland.
For more information on meningococcal disease, go to: http://www.healthier.qld.gov.au/conditionstreatments/meningococcal-disease