Meningococcal disease claims second Ballarat victim this year

A Ballarat man in his 70s has died from invasive meningococcal disease, becoming Ballarat’s second meningococcal victim this year.

The 71-year-old man died in the Ballarat Base Hospital last month from the notifiable disease, just four months after the deadly infection claimed the life of 19-year-old Emma-Kate McGrath.

The two cases are not linked.

Across the state, meningococcal disease has claimed the lives of five people this year.

HOSPITAL: Ballarat Base Hospital has seen two deaths from invasive meningococcal disease this year.

HOSPITAL: Ballarat Base Hospital has seen two deaths from invasive meningococcal disease this year.

The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday said there had been 54 confirmed cases of invasive meningococcal disease recorded in Victoria this year, 21 of which were due to serogroup W – the same strain involved in the latest Ballarat death.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said the prevalence of the serogroup W type of meningococcal had increased across Australia in recent years.

When hospital staff confirmed the man was suffering from a meningococcal infection his family and close contact were given clearance antibiotics to ensure the disease did not spread.

The typical incubation period for the meningococcal bacteria after exposure is two to 10 days, but the germs cannot live for more than a few seconds outside the human body.

"Meningococcal illness can rapidly overwhelm its victims,” the spokesperson said.

Symptoms may include fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck or sore muscles

followed in some cases by a rash of red purple spots. It is very difficult to diagnose in the early stages as the tell-tale signs may not be evident.

If infection is diagnosed early and treated with antibiotics, most people make a complete recovery but the disease can progress very quickly and can be complicated where other medical conditions are also present.

The spokesperson said the best antidote to meningococcal infection was early detection and early intervention.

About one in 10 people carry the meningococcal bacteria naturally in the back of their nose and throat without causing illness, but in a small number of people a a particular strain of the bacteria gets through the lining of the throat, enters the bloodstream and causes invasive meningococcal disease.

On rare occasions, the bacteria can overcome the body’s natural defences.

The bacteria is difficult to spread and only passes from person to person through regular, close, prolonged household or intimate contact.

SOURCE: The Courier

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