Meningococcal outbreak in NT continues to worsen.

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The 25th case has been confirmed of the deadly meningococcal disease in the Central Australian indigenous communities of Barkly and Katherine.

More meningococcal diagnoses have been recorded amid an unprecedented outbreak in Central Australia that has so far affected mainly indigenous children.

There have been 25 confirmed cases of the W strain of the deadly disease so far this year, with one awaiting final laboratory testing.

There were only three cases last year, according to the NT Centre for Disease Control.

All of those affected are indigenous people from the Central Australian, Barkly and Katherine communities, while 19 cases are kids younger than ten.

Northern Territory health authorities have mounted a large-scale immunisation campaign in the affected regions in an attempt to prevent it from spreading to the Top End.

From this week a free vaccine will be offered to all people aged between 12 months and 19 years living in remote communities and all Aboriginal people aged between 12 months and 19 years living in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine.

The NT government is also co-ordinating with other jurisdictions after a spate of cases were reported on South Australia's traditional APY lands.

"This is a massive effort on the part of all the health services in the region and is focusing on those most at risk and those who are most likely to be carrying the germ in their nose or throat," CDC acting director Charles Douglas said.

WHAT IS MENINGOCOCCAL?

A rare, life-threatening illness caused by bacterial infection of the blood and/or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain and occasionally infect other sites, such as large joints.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

* Fever, neck stiffness, headache, difficulty looking at bright lights, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore muscles or joints, drowsiness or a rash. Babies may refuse food and drink and have a high pitched cry.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

* With antibiotics, but the infection can progress very quickly, so seeking medical attention urgently is vital to survival.

SOURCE: news.com.au

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