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MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE - WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

BY QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT - QUEENSLAND HEALTH

WHAT IS MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE?

Meningococcal disease is a severe but uncommon infection that occurs when the 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 this bacteria in their throat or nose remain quite well, they are able to spread it to others, and a few of these people may subsequently become ill.

Meningococcal bacteria are spread in droplets shed from the nose or throat through coughing and sneezing. The meningococcal bacteria are difficult to spread and do not survive for long outside the body. Close contact with a person who has the bacteria in their nose and throat is usually required for it to spread to others.

There are a number of different strains of meningococcal disease which are distinguished by their serogroups are A, B, C, W135 and Y. In Australia, the serogroups B and C occur most frequently. Currently there is no effective vaccine against meningococcal serogroup B.

Meningococcal bacteria cause meningococcal disease which occurs in two main forms. Meningococcal septicemia occurs when the bacteria invade the bloodstream and cause blood poisoning. Meningococcal meningitis occurs when the bacteria infect the outer lining around the brain and the spinal cord. Both forms can occur at the same time.

HOW COMMON IS IT?

Meningococcal disease is not common. On average, 100 cases are not reported in Queensland each year. In rare instances. the disease can be fatal or have long lasting debilitating effects.

WHO IS MOST AT RISK?

Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but young children 1 - 5 years of age and young adults (15 - 19 years) are at the most risk of contacting the disease. Smoking has been proven to make the household members more susceptible to meningococcal disease.

SYMPTOMS

  1. Some symptoms may not appear at all.

  2. Symptoms don't appear in any particular order. They may be mild or severe.

  3. The disease can initially seem like the flu.

  4. Symptoms can develop over a matter of hours, or one to two days.

Like most diseases, meningococcal disease may appear differently in different people.

Treat meningococcal disease URGENTLY.

Don't wait - see a doctor. If you think someone has the symptoms of meningococcal disease, contact your doctor or go to a hospital emergency department immediately. Early treatment with antibiotics is vital. If the patient is not getting better, see a doctor again.

WHAT TREATMENT IS AVAILABLE

A person with meningococcal disease will be admitted to hospital and treated with antibiotics.

HOW IS THE SPREAD OF DISEASE MANAGED?

If a person develops meningococcal disease, there is no test currently available to identify the original source of the infection.

As a precaution to prevent the spread of the disease, contact your doctor or go to a hospital emergency department immediately. Early treatment with antibiotics is vital. If the patient is not getting better, see a doctor again.

WHAT TREATMENT IS AVAILABLE?

A person with meningococcal disease will be admitted to hospital and treated with antibiotics.

HOW IS THE SPREAD OF DISEASE MANAGED?

If a person develops meningococcal disease, there is no test currently available to identify the original source of the infection.

As a precaution to prevent the spread of the disease, public health authorities follow up household and other close contacts to explain the disease and to provide an antibiotic if necessary.

The antibiotic will eliminate the bacteria from the nose or throat of any close contacts who may have acquired the bacteria or who may have been the original source. People who receive antibiotics are able to continue at school or work.

MENINGOCOCCAL VACCINES

Polysaccharide vaccines

There are two type of vaccines available against meningococcal disease. One of the types of vaccines is effective against groups A,C,Y and W135 when given to people over the age of two years (they do not work in younger children). These are known as polysaccharide vaccines. These vaccines provide short term protection (2-3 yrs), so are used mainly for people aged over two years who require relatively short term protection.

Conjugate vaccine

A more recently developed vaccine, known as the conjugate vaccine, protects against serogroup C only. It is suitable for use in children as young as six weeks of age as well as older children and adults. The duration of protection with this vaccine is uncertain, but based on experience with similar types of vaccines, long - term protection is expected. Initial reports of the effectiveness of the conjugate vaccine indicate the vaccine is 88% effective in children 12 - 30 months and 96% effective in adolescents aged 15 - 17 years against meningococcal C disease.

The meningococcal C vaccine is a small injection given in the upper arm or thigh. A seperate sterile syringe and needle is used for each person.

The conjugate vaccine can be used for babies from six weeks of age. Young infants require three doses (at 2,4, and 6 months of age) with a minimum of four weeks between doses, infants 4 to 11 months of age require two doses, given at least four weeks apart. Children, adolescents, and adults require one dose only.

Meningococcal serogroup C vaccine does not contain live bacteria and will not cause meningococcal disease in the person receiving vaccine or their contacts.

Both vaccine types have good safety profiles. The most common side effects of the conjugate vaccine are usually short - lived and include pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, fever, irritability, loss of appetite, and headaches. There are some age related differences in the type of side effect following vaccination. Headache is more likely to be reported in the adolescent age group. Severe reactions are quite rare.

These side effects occur at similar levels after other routine immunisations given to babies, children and young people.

There have been very rare reports of individuals having fits after being immunised. Recovery has usually been very quick. Fits have not been shown to be caused by the vaccine, but may be caused by fainting.

As with any vaccine there is an extremely rare possibility of a severe allergic reaction.

Currently there is no vaccine to protect against the most common strain of the disease (serogroup B) which occurs in Australia. Hence it is important, even if you are vaccinated against one or more strain, to continue to be aware of the symptoms of meningococcal disease and to see a doctor if you experience any of these.

THE NATIONAL MENINGOCOCCAL C VACCINATION PROGRAM

While disease caused by a serogroup C is less common, it accounts for almost two thirds of all deaths from meningococcal disease in Australia.

From 2003, a national vaccination program to protect against meningococcal serogroup C disease is being conducted in Australia. All children, adolescents and young adults aged 1 - 19 years in 2003 will be progressively offered free vaccine over the next three years. Meningococcal serogroup C disease is rare in babies therefore this vaccination program includes only children over 12 months of age.

In Queensland from 2003, children aged 1 -5 years can be immunised against meningococcal serogroup C disease through their usual immunisation provider eg. doctor or council. Vaccination against meningococcal serogroup C disease will become part of the Australian National Vaccination Schedule for children at 12 months of age.

Also in 2003, secondary school students will be offered immunisation through school based vaccination programs. In 2004, primary school students will be offered the vaccination program at school. In 2005, any remaining unvaccinated children and young adults (who were aged 1 - 19 years in 2003) will be eligible for free vaccine.

 

INSECT ZAPPERS SPREAD DIFFERENT KINDS OF BUGS

BY ANITA MANNING / USA TODAY

Appetizing news from the world of science: Researchers say that vaporizing flies with a bug zapper can spray a microbial mist up to 6 feet away. That means it might be wise to move the picnic table says microbiologist James Urban of Kansas State University.

He presented results of his study Wednesday at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in Chicago. But zappers are ultraviolet light to hire insects to an electrified metal grid. A Delaware study estimated a million zappers are sold in the USA annually.

In experiments using houseflies, Urban and colleagues coated the surfaces of the insects with a virus similar to poliovirus but harmless to humans. Some flies were fed the organisms.

Researchers found that one of every 4000 viruses on a fly's surface is spread by electrocution, compared with one in a million of those inside the fly.

Earlier experiments found the same results for the spread in bacteria.

Urban and an entomologist friend were inspired while "at a picnic, eating bratwurst and corn and swatting flies. We began to speculate whether a bug zapper would be good or bad."

The finding probably doesn't represent imminent peril, Urban says. " After all, we carry around many millions of organisms on our body."

But is something to chew on. "Certain organisms would be bad news, given that the fly might be walking around on manure."