Otago Polytechnic

Following confirmation a University of Otago student contracted meningococcal disease and was hospitalised in a serious condition the weekend of 19-20 May, Public Health South has issued the following information in an effort to safeguard others:

“While the risk of developing infection is very low, it is important to seek medical advice immediately if you develop any of the symptoms of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease can be difficult to diagnose because it can look like other illnesses, such as the flu.”

Symptoms of meningitis can develop suddenly and include:

  • a high fever
  • headache
  • sleepiness
  • joint and muscle pains.

There can also be some more specific symptoms, such as:

  • a stiff neck
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting
  • crying
  • refusal to feed (in infants)
  • a rash consisting of reddish-purple pin-prick spots or bruises.

Even if you’ve had a meningococcal vaccine you still need to look out for symptoms, because the vaccines don’t protect against all meningococcal strains.

Please contact the Public Health Unit if you have any further questions.

If you are unwell, do not wait to call the Public Health Unit — it is important to see a doctor immediately.

Meningococcal infection is caused by a bacterium that is carried, usually harmlessly, in the nose and throat by up to 15% of people. However, occasionally carriers may pass it onto others who have been in close contact with them.

Only a very small number of people in contact with “carriers” develop meningococcal disease. If this does happen, it may take up to ten days for symptoms to develop.

The bacteria are difficult to spread and are only passed from person to person by regular close, prolonged contact. Contact with saliva from the front of the mouth, teeth or lips rarely passes the bacteria on.

Only people who have been in close contact with a suspected or confirmed case need to take special antibiotics to clear the bacteria from the back of the throat.

These include people who have stayed overnight in the dwelling in the seven days* before the person became unwell, intimate contacts such as boyfriend/girlfriend/sexual partner, and healthcare workers exposed to respiratory secretions during procedures.  This “clearance” antibiotic does not treat the disease in a person who is already developing the infection.

*The university student, from Studholme College, was hospitalised the week before 22-23 May.

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Published on 25 May 2018

Orderdate: 25 May 2018
Expiry: 31 Dec 2018