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Meningococcal

Meningococcal

Frequently asked questions

Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious disease caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis1. The bacteria cause an infection of the meninges which are the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. There are many different types (or strains) of meningococcal bacteria, the most common that cause disease are A, B, C, W and Y.1

Meningococcal infections can progress rapidly (24-48hrs) to serious disease or even death (in 5-10% of patients), despite treatment with antibiotics. If untreated, meningococcal disease is fatal in 50% of cases. 10-20% of patients who survive will have permanent disability including brain damage, hearing loss or a learning disability.2-3

Historically in Australia, the most common strains have been B and C. More recently, this has changed with the most common strains in 2016 being W (44.5%) and B (37.7%).2

Cases of the C strain have reduced since the introduction of a vaccine for children in 2003 as part of the National Immunisation Program2. It is important to note that this vaccine only covers the C strain of meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal is spread from person to person through close and prolonged contact, like kissing or via air droplets when people sneeze or cough. Approximately 10% of healthy people carry the bacteria harmlessly in their nose or throat and don’t become ill; however they can still pass the disease on to others.3

Meningococcal disease can affect anyone but is most common in young children, adolescents and young adults1. Symptoms appear between one and 10 days after exposure. Common symptoms are flu like symptoms such as high fever, headache, neck stiffness, confusion, vomiting and sensitivity to light.2

Meningococcal disease can be associated with a purple rash which is a sign of blood poisoning.3 The rash may or may not be present during disease.2 If it appears, it is often in the later stages of the disease. If you suspect Meningococcal disease, do not wait for the rash to appear but seek urgent medical attention.

Meningococcal disease is diagnosed via a clinical examination and a lumbar puncture. Those with meningococcal disease symptoms should seek urgent treatment at a hospital. Doctors will prescribe antibiotic treatment in suspected cases as there is rarely time to wait for a definitive diagnosis.3

As meningococcal disease is potentially fatal, urgent medical attention at the nearest hospital is advised if someone displays symptoms of the disease. For further information regarding meningococcal vaccination speak with your healthcare professional.

There are several different strains of meningococcal disease. In Australia, vaccines are available for each of the most common strains (A, B, C, W and Y).  However, no vaccine covers all 5 strains. A vaccine against strain C has been provided free to infants under the National Immunisation Program since 2003. There is also a vaccine which covers four strains: A, C, W and Y; and a vaccine which covers the B strain.1-2

In 2017, several state governments in Australia announced vaccination programs to address the increase of Meningococcal W (MenW) by offering a vaccine against A, C, W and Y1. For more information, click on your state on the map below. 

Different strains of meningococcal disease are present in different parts of the world. For travellers who intend to travel to parts of the world where epidemics are frequent, vaccination with a vaccine that protects against meningococcal disease may be recommended. These are available as private prescriptions.1

In some instances, a vaccine is required for entry to a country. For example, it is compulsory for all Hajj pilgrims to have proof of vaccination against A, C, W and Y to enter Saudi Arabia. Australian travellers are advised to visit their General Practitioner or travel medicine specialist six to eight weeks before travelling overseas to discuss suitable vaccination options. 3

In 2003, a vaccine against meningococcal disease of the C strain was added to the National Immunisation Program at 12 months.2 It is important to know that this vaccine only covers strain C but no other strains (A, B, W, Y). In 2016, the W strain became the most common strain of Meningococcal disease in Australia.2 This lead to several states implementing vaccination programs for adolescents aged 15-19, using a vaccine against 4 strains of meningococcal disease, A, C, W and Y. 2 See below for more details.

State Vaccination Programs

Several state governments in Australia have introduced vaccination programs to address the recent increase of Meningococcal strain W in Australia. Click on your state on the map below for details on who is eligible for free vaccine and how to get vaccinated. Please note that these programs are currently only short term.

MENINGOCOCCAL INFO FOR YOUR STATE

WHOOPING COUGH INFO FOR YOUR STATE


Vaccine offered to:

Vaccine offered to:

WA NT SA VIC TAS ACT QLD NSW WA NT SA VIC TAS ACT QLD NSW

 

Duration of program

2017-May 2018

Vaccinations in school offered to:

Year 10

Vaccinations by GP offered to:

15-19 yr olds in 2017.

Vaccination by community health clinic/local council offered to:

15-19 yr olds in 2017.

 

 

For more information on Queensland's vaccination programs: Click Here

 

Duration of program

2017-18

Vaccinations in school offered to:

Year 11-12 in 2017. Year 11 in 2018.

Vaccinations by GP offered to:

17-18 yr olds in 2017

 

 

For more information on New South Wales's vaccination programs: Click Here

 

Duration of program

2017

Vaccinations in school offered to:

Year 10-12

Vaccinations by GP offered to:

15-19 yr olds in 2017.

Vaccination by community health clinic/local council offered to:

15-19 yr olds in 2017.

 

 

For more information on the Vctoria's programs: Click Here

 

Duration of program

2017-18

Vaccinations in school offered to:

Year 10-12 in 2017. Year 10 in 2018.

Vaccinations by GP offered to:

15-19 yr olds in 2017.

 

 

For more information on Tasmania's vaccination programs: Click Here

 

Duration of program

2017-19

Vaccinations in school offered to:

Year 10-12 in 2017. Year 10 from 2018.

Vaccination by community health clinic/local council offered to:

18-19 yr olds in 2017.

 

 

For more information on Western Australia's vaccination programs: Click Here

References:

  1. The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Edition 2017.
  2. Meningococcal vaccines for Australians | NCIRS Fact sheet: March 2017
  3. WHO: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs141/en/