Call for more meningococcal vaccinations as cases spike

Friday, 16 November, 2018

Call for more meningococcal vaccinations as cases spike

The Australian Academy of Science is urging parents to vaccinate their children against all strains of meningococcal disease, following a recent spike in cases in Adelaide and the death of a seven-year-old boy in south-west Sydney.

Spring is a peak time for the disease, according to the Academy, with babies and children up to the age of five years and teenagers and young adults aged from 15–24 years among those at most risk. People with suppressed immune systems, smokers and those living in crowded accommodation are also at greater risk.

Professor Robert Booy, from the National Centre for Immunisation Research at the University of Sydney, said there are five common strains of meningococcal disease in Australia — A, B, C, W and Y — with an increase in cases over the last few years.

“We had a surge in W (strain) leading to nearly 150 cases last year and a surge in Y (strain) leading to 75 cases last year,” Professor Booy said.

Professor Allen Cheng, from Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, added that there are very few bacteria that can kill someone in hours, but this is one of them.

The video below features the stories of meningococcal disease survivors including Eliza Ault-Connell, who became an amputee after contracting meningococcal disease when she was 16.

“When you consider my case — I was in an intensive care unit for 110 days and had over 60 operations — the financial burden of the diseases is so great,” said Ault-Connell, who is also the Director of Meningococcal Australia.

“When we look at the cost of a vaccination, it’s safe and effective; I can only see prevention as being better than cure.”

The video is part of a campaign from the Australian Academy of Science, developed in partnership with the Department of Health, designed to educate consumers and medical professionals about the disease.

It comes around a month after the two bodies released a series of videos, articles and images to promote the benefits, safety and science of immunisation.

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