Meningococcal warning

AFTER the recent death of a Gladstone baby from meningococcal disease, parents should be vigilant in watching for symptoms in their own children.

Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly at the back of the throat or in the nose in about 10 per cent of the community at any given time. Although most people who have these bacteria in their throat or nose remain quite well, they are able to spread the bacteria to others, and a few of these people may subsequently become ill.

Meningococcal disease occurs in two main forms: meningococcal meningitis occurs when the bacteria infect the lining around the brain and spinal cord, meningococcal septicaemia occurs when the bacteria invade the bloodstream and cause blood poisoning.

The typical symptoms of meningococcal disease in adults and older children include vomiting, fever, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness, joint pain and rash of red-purple spots or bruises.

In babies the symptoms may include fever, hands and feet may also feel cold, refusing feeds or vomiting, high-pitched moaning cry or whimpering, dislike of being handled, fretfulness, rash of red-purple spots or bruises, blank and staring expression, bulging fontanelle, difficulty in waking, lethargy and pale blotchy complexion.

After exposure to the bacteria, it usually takes from two to four days to become ill, although it can be slightly longer. A person with meningococcal disease usually needs to be admitted to hospital and treated with antibiotics.

Because antibiotics and vaccination may not always prevent meningococcal disease, all contacts, regardless of whether or not they have been given antibiotics or vaccination, need to be alert for the symptoms of the disease, particularly during the first four weeks after contact with the person with meningococcal disease. 

The Observer has heard of another unconfirmed case of meningococcal in an adult woman at the Gladstone Hospital on the same day Jett Van Someran was originally taken to hospital.

It is believed the woman spent a week in hospital, five of those days in isolation while being treated for the disease but this has not been confirmed by Queensland Health.

The Observer contacted Queensland Health last week to find out if Gladstone Hospital has adequate procedures in place to cope with cases of meningococcal but as of 5pm yesterday Queensland Health had not responded.

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