Auckland public health experts are closely monitoring cases of meningococcal disease in the region, with a national alert and an outbreak of Men W in Northland.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) Clinical Director Dr Julia Peters says the overall number of meningococcal cases in Auckland is the same as last year. “We have been notified of 35 cases so far this year, which is identical to the same period last year. These totals include the full range of serotypes of meningococcal disease,” Dr Peters says.
However whilst the overall numbers of meningococcal disease in Auckland remains stable, the proportion of those with Men W has increased to approximately 25 percent of cases, up from eight percent in 2017. There have been two deaths amongst the nine Men W cases in the region.
Members of the public and health professionals have asked to be vigilant for suspected meningococcal disease, with a rise in the number of group W cases throughout the country, although group B cases (also known as Men B) continues to be predominant.
A national health advisory has alerted doctors, emergency departments and members of the public to the rise in cases of Men W, as it can be hard to detect.
“Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, and can be difficult to diagnose. It can look like the flu early on but quickly gets much worse. As other commentators have noted Men W can be difficult to diagnose,” Dr Peters says.
Symptoms include some or all of the following: fever, headache, vomiting, feeling sleepy/confused/delirious, loss of consciousness, joint pains, aching muscles, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, rash - purple or red spots or bruises. Additional symptoms in babies and infants include being unsettled, floppy or irritable, refusing drinks or feeds and becoming harder to wake.
“If you or anyone you know has these symptoms and is deteriorating, don’t wait. Call a doctor and ambulance immediately,” Dr Peters says.