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Meningococcal Disease

Overview of meningococcal disease

Meningococcal bacteria live naturally in the back of the nose and throat in about 10 per cent of the population without causing illness. In a small number of people, a particular strain of the bacteria gets through the lining of the throat, enters the bloodstream and causes meningococcal disease.

The infection can develop very quickly. If infection is diagnosed early enough and the right antibiotics are given quickly, most people make a complete recovery. Even with antibiotic treatment, invasive meningococcal disease causes death in about five to 10 per cent of cases.

Most cases occur suddenly and are unrelated to any other cases. Outbreaks where more than one person is affected are rare. Although everyone is a carrier at some time, carriers are most common among young adults and people who smoke.

Immunisation against meningococcal disease

Immunisation against meningococcal bacteria is the best protection against meningococcal disease.

It is important to know that even if you have had meningococcal disease, you may not develop lifelong immunity and are still advised to be immunised against further recurrence of this life-threatening disease.

Meningococcal ACWY vaccination

The meningococcal ACWY vaccine provides good protection against strain ACWY serogroups. Immunisation against meningococcal serogroups ACWY disease and is available for free in Victoria as part of the National Immunisation Program schedule for:

  • children at 12 months
  • children from 13 months up to and including 19 years of age, who have not previously had their meningococcal C vaccine at 12 months to catch up
  • as a time limited program, until 31 December 2018, for secondary school students in Year 10 (or age equivalent not attending school
  • as a time limited program, until 31 December 2018, for men who have sex with men

The ACWY vaccination is available for purchase by anyone wishing to protect themselves or their family. This vaccine is recommended for high risk groups as identified above

Meningococcal B vaccination

Immunisation against meningococcal serogroup B disease is available on private prescription, but is not available free under the National Immunisation Program schedule. The vaccines protects against about 76 per cent of B strain meningococcal serogroups, and are  recommended for high risk groups as identified above.

Meningococcal serogroup B vaccine commonly causes fever in children younger than two years of age and skin reactions at the injection site.

Paracetamol is recommended 30 minutes before or as soon as practicable after meningococcal B vaccine for children younger than two years of age. Two further doses of paracetamol are recommended six hours apart, regardless of whether fever is present.

> Read the full article about Meningococcal disease here.

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