Magnetic Island North Queensland
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August 3rd 2011
Meningococcal confirmed in Magnetic Island tourist

A tourist visiting Magnetic Island has been confirmed as suffering from a meningococcal infection and is in a critical but stable condition in Townsville Hospital.

Dr Steven Donahue, Public Health Physician, Townsville Public Health Unit told Magnetic Times that the patient was one of a group of two couples who had spent a week in Townsville then came to Magnetic Island.

"One got sick on Sunday morning and the (Magnetic Island) Clinic did a very good job. They ordered a chopper to evacuate the patient to Townsville Hospital with antibiotics given on the way. The patient has an underlying medical condition and we are not sure the patient is going to make it.

"Today we have been talking to the family and companions. There has been no connection to the JCU or child in Townsville infections."

The companions have been treated with antibiotics.

According to Dr Donahue, "The take-home message (for Magnetic Islanders) is that the patient picked it up off the Island as the minimum incubation period is two days."

As for the disease bacteria being spread by fleeting contact the patient may have had with locals in shops or on buses Dr Donahue says, "It doesn't cut it. Transmission would need to be to someone sharing a bed or a house."

Dr Donahue doesn't know why we have experienced the spike in the disease and he expects that, like the other cases in Townsville, this patient will have contracted the "B" strain for which no vaccine has yet been developed.

Later today another case was confirmed in Cairns.

"It's unusual that there are so many together at this time but it's not reached a level of a community outbreak. The risk to the general public is very low - the same as we normally have. It's a poorly spread organism and outbreaks are rare."

Antibiotics are not used to prevent meningococcal disease they are provided only to the closest contacts of a case to reduce carriage of the bacteria in healthy people, in accordance with national guidelines.

Hospital-based treatment is also made available to any person confirmed with meningococcal disease.

"Since the bacteria does not spread easily, only people identified as being very close contacts, such as household contacts or sexual partners, would benefit from antibiotics," said Dr Donahue.

When asked what were the most important measures people could take to avoid the bacteria, Dr Donahue said, "Immunise your children. In the past the "C" strain killed children in droves. If you see symptoms then don't hesitate seeing a doctor.

Queensland has now had a total of 39 cases of meningococcal in 2011.

Following is a detailed fact sheet about Meningococcal infection

Meningococcal disease is a severe but uncommon infection that occurs when meningococcal bacteria invade the body from the throat or nose.

Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly at the back of the throat or in the nose in about 10% 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 (or a combination of these two 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 symptoms of meningococcal disease dont appear in any particular order and may appear differently in different people. The typical symptoms of meningococcal disease are shown in diagrams and are listed below:
In adults and older children:
*stiff neck
*dislike of bright lights
*joint pain
*rash of red-purple spots or bruises

In babies
*fever, hands and feet may also feel cold
*refusing feeds or vomiting
*high pitched moaning cry or whimpering
*dislike of being handled, fretful
*rash of red-purple spots or bruises
*blank and staring expression
*bulging fontanelle difficult to wake, lethargic
*pale blotchy complexion

A recent study of children under 16 years of age in the United Kingdom has shown that leg pain, cold extremities, and abnormal skin colour, are frequently seen in the first 12 hours of meningococcal disease.

If anyone has any of these symptoms, they should seek urgent medical attention. Early treatment can sometimes prevent serious complications.

After exposure to the bacteria, it usually takes from two to four days to become ill, although sometimes it can be slightly longer.

It is not easy to catch meningococcal disease. While the bacteria can be spread via droplets from the nose or throat during coughing and sneezing, close and prolonged contact with a person who has the bacteria in their nose or throat is usually needed for the bacteria to spread to others.

Sharing saliva through, for example, sharing cups, drinks or cigarettes is not considered to be a way of spreading the disease. As meningococcal bacteria cannot live long outside of the body, the infection cannot be picked up from water supplies, swimming pools, bed linen or pillows.

A person with meningococcal disease usually needs to be admitted to hospital for appropriate care and treated with antibiotics.

Close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease have an increased, although still quite low, risk of also developing the disease. As a precaution, public health authorities identify contacts to explain the nature of the disease, and if necessary, prescribe a short course of antibiotics to get rid of any meningococcal bacteria they may be carrying in their throat or nose. In general, only household contacts and other close household-like contacts (such as sexual partners) require antibiotics.

Vaccination is also recommended for any recent household, household-like and sexual contacts of people infected with certain strains of meningococcal disease which are preventable through vaccination. When test results are available, public health authorities will contact such people and advise them to be vaccinated promptly by a general practitioner.

Because antibiotics and vaccination may not always prevent meningococcal disease, all contacts, 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. If any symptoms of meningococcal disease develop in close contacts or anyone close to them, it is important to seek urgent medical advice.

Anyone who has been in contact with a person diagnosed with meningococcal disease is able to continue to attend child care, school or work, and all other activities should continue as normal, whether or not they have received antibiotics or vaccination.

Smoking increases the chance of someone carrying the bacteria and spreading it to others. It is especially important not to smoke around young children who are particularly vulnerable to meningococcal disease.

Some types of meningococcal disease can be prevented with vaccination. There are a number of different strains of meningococcal bacteria. The main strains that cause meningococcal disease worldwide are A, B, C, W135 and Y.

In Australia two vaccines that provide protection against meningococcal disease are available:
*a vaccine providing long term protection against the C strain, and is safe for all age groups
*a vaccine that provides short term protection for A, C, W135 and Y strains for people over the age of 2 years.

There is no vaccine available in Australia for protection against the B strain which now causes the majority of cases of meningococcal disease.

Who should receive the meningococcal C vaccine?
Vaccination against meningococcal C strain is recommended for all children at 12 months of age as part of the Australian Standard Vaccination Schedule. It is a free vaccine for Queensland infants.

Help and Assistance
For further information please contact your local doctor, nearest public health unit or the 13HEALTH information line (13 432584).

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Meningococcal confirmed in Magnetic Island tourist
August 3rd 2011
Thanks for such a comprehensive report on something we must all be wondering about.

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