26 December 2019

Meningococcal disease in a child who attended Child Australia Lockridge

The Department of Health today reported that a child is currently recovering after being diagnosed with meningococcal serogroup W disease. 

The child attended Child Australia Lockridge each day from 16 – 20 December 2019.

While meningococcal disease is an uncommon illness and bacteria are not easily spread from person-to-person, children and staff who were in close contact with the child are being provided clearance antibiotics as a precaution.  

Children and staff are asked to attend Child Australia Lockridge on 26 December 2019 (Boxing Day) between 2pm and 4pm to receive clearance antibiotics if they attended the centre between 16 and 20 December 2019 and fit into one of the groups listed below:

  • Spent two full days or more in the kindy room, or
  • Had 20+ hours cumulative contact with children in the kindy room; this includes children and staff in other rooms who were at the centre from 7-9am and/or 4-6pm when children of all ages come together.

Children and staff who attended Child Australia Lockridge between 16 and 20 December 2019 and spent less than two days in the kindy room or had less than 20 hours cumulative contact with children in the kindy room should be alert for the symptoms of meningococcal disease (see information below) but do NOT need clearance antibiotics.

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening illness caused by a bacterial infection of the blood and/or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain, and occasionally of other sites, such as the throat, lungs or large joints.

Meningococcal bacteria are not easily spread from person-to-person. The bacterium is present in droplets discharged from the nose and throat when coughing or sneezing, but is not spread by saliva and does not survive more than a few seconds in the environment.  

Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10-20 per cent of the population at any one time. Very rarely, the bacteria invade the bloodstream or tissues and cause serious infections.

Sometimes – but not always – symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises.

Symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains. Young children may not complain of symptoms, so fever, pale or blotchy complexion, vomiting, lethargy (inactivity), poor feeding and rash are important signs.

Although treatable with antibiotics, meningococcal infection can progress very rapidly, so it is important that anyone experiencing these symptoms seeks medical attention promptly.

With appropriate treatment, most people with the disease recover, although around 5 to 10 per cent will die and around 15 per cent may experience complications such as hearing loss, or gangrene requiring skin grafts or amputations.

A vaccine to protect against four serogroups of the meningococcal disease (serogroups A, C, W and Y) is offered free to all children in WA at 12 months of age, with a catch-up program for children who have not yet received the vaccine and who are aged 1-4 years.  Due to a higher rate of meningococcal disease in Aboriginal people in WA, Aboriginal children are offered vaccination from age 6 weeks to 4 years of age.  In addition, the vaccine is offered to all teenagers in Year 10, with a catch up program for 15-19 years.

For more information about meningococcal disease, see https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/J_M/Meningococcal-disease


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