Meningococcal Disease – Facts for Health Professionals


– [Narrator] Meningococcal disease is a rare but devastating illness. Vaccination and early detection
are vital to saving lives, but diagnosis is difficult. – It’s not a very common infection. So there are only probably 100 or a couple of hundred cases
a year in all of Australia. And clearly there are a lot of people that get sick for lots of other reasons, so differentiating this infection from other types of infections is quite difficult clinically. – [Narrator] You’re about to meet people who have experienced
the disease themselves and others who work on the front line of meningococcal research. The aim is to provide a
concise, up-to-date summary and coordinated messaging
for all Australians. There are five common serogroups of meningococcal disease in Australia. The number of clinical cases
has increased in recent years. – About half of the disease
that we see in Australia at the moment is due to serogroup B. Of the other half, the main burden of disease
is because of serogroup W, with most of the rest made up by Y. – [Narrator] Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterial infection, spread by bodily fluids from coughing, sneezing, and kissing. Those most at risk from the
disease are children under five and people aged 15 to 24. Smokers, anyone with a
suppressed immune system, or living in crowded accommodation. – Meningococci love us. They only live in humans, they don’t live in other animal species, and they don’t live
well in the environment. So you have to come into close contact with someone who’s carrying
the bug to get infected. If we reduce the number of
people who are carrying, then we reduce that risk. – [Narrator] Clear messaging
on the availability of vaccines is critical. Lily was vaccinated in 2005 with C strain. Since then, new strains of
meningococcal have emerged. In 2017, a vaccine covering four strains of the
disease was introduced. Lily hadn’t received the new vaccine. – People don’t understand that there is more than one strain. That you’re not
necessarily safe and vaccinated if you have that one
vaccination in school. I mean I did, and look at me now. – We’re in a whole new era. And I wonder how many
people are aware of it— the way that I realise that I was unaware. – [Narrator] There are
now two vaccines available that cover the five serogroups
common in Australia. The first one is new and
covers A, C, W, and Y. It’s free under the National
Immunisation Program for babies aged 12 months now, and teenagers from 14 to 19 years old will be able to get it from April 2019. Anyone else can pay for it
privately through their GP. – So it’s a good idea
for 20 to 24 year olds to think about getting vaccination through their GP and paying for it. – [Narrator] The other
vaccine works differently to protect against meningococcal B. It’s proven effective in babies. Available privately from your GP. In South Australia, due to
the high number of cases, it’s provided for eligible
children and young people. – ACWY vaccines are about 80 per cent protective against the disease in the short term, for the first couple of years. And the MenB vaccine similarly is between 80 and 90 per cent effective over the first couple of years
of immunisation in infants. So that’s a substantial reduction in risk. – [Narrator] Early detection, considering the risk
profile of the patient, is the other key to survival. Rohan and Margaret Playford
lived on an army base and their son Jacob was
about to turn three. Their GP recognised the symptoms. – She said, “I haven’t seen a case of it before, “but I think this is what he’s got, “meningococcal, and meningitis. “And if that’s what he has, “then it can be quite serious and fatal.” – [Narrator] It took only hours for Jacob’s flu-like symptoms to develop into something
much more serious. – Jacob wasn’t one of
these kids that got sick. So for him to be ill was
a surprise in itself. But I just hadn’t realised
that there was a disease that could be so invasive, and kill people so quickly. – [Narrator] Meningococcal sepsis is more common and more deadly. Symptoms include a fever, pain, pale skin, rapid breathing, nausea or vomiting. Also, a rash that may start as a spot, then develop into
distinctive purple bruising. – The first stage really is fever, and often it’s a fairly
sudden onset of fever, often with shakes and
what’s called rigors, where it’s uncontrollable
shaking with the fever. – [Narrator] Meningococcal
disease symptoms include a stiff or painful neck. Sensitivity to light. Confusion or disorientation. Irritability or agitation in babies. Sometimes it can occur
with variable symptoms. – So, on Christmas Eve I
started getting flu symptoms, a bit of a sore throat— nothing too serious. Fevers at night, and then when I woke up on Christmas Day it got a little bit worse. By about Christmas night I
couldn’t keep water down, I was just throwing up. And then a few hours later, it got to the point where my
back hurt and my neck hurt, but I thought that was a reaction
to the vomiting movement. And it wasn’t until about midnight that a rash started forming. But that probably took
about 30 minutes to form. Only 30 minutes. – I pulled the sheets down to see where else the rash had appeared. And you have to understand, the rash hadn’t broken
the surface anywhere. It wasn’t a rash that
appears on your face, you know like acne would, or you know, some sort
of external irritant. You know, this is under the skin. – [Narrator] Knowing how
to diagnose the disease and giving clear advice on
the vaccinations available are essential. You may only see a handful
of cases in your career, and acting quickly is critical. – First of all, have training so that
they can recognise sepsis, not based on their experience,
but on their learning. Secondly, they can check that the patient is reviewed again in a few
hours if they’re just not sure. Thirdly, and very importantly, you have to trust what parents tell you. If parents are telling you their child is far more
ill than they’ve ever been, and they’re really concerned, you need to pay respect to that. – Pretty much since day one, waking up and being
so grateful to be alive, I wanted to stop people having to experience what I’d experienced. I want people to learn about
the early signs and symptoms, and I want them to know
about vaccinations.

1 thought on “Meningococcal Disease – Facts for Health Professionals

  • Having failed to diagnose a case of meningococcal sepsis in time to save a life, could I point out 2 things that this video does not mention.
    1. In an appropriate setting (a febrile pale patient), A sudden drop in systolic blood pressure requires close scrutiny for evidence of sepsis (meningococcal or otherwise) – this assumes you know what the original Blood pressure was. All other early signs are non specific – a viral infection can cause widespread muscle stiffness, & high fever….
    2. If you wait to see the rash, it will be too late to prevent organ damage.

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