Free vaccine for teen to prevent kissing disease

SOUTH Western Sydney Local Health District is urging people to be alert to lesser known signs of meningococcal disease with two cases already reported in the area this year as the peak period nears.

Public Health Director, Naru Pal, says meningococcal disease can occur at any time of year but cases normally start to increase towards the end of flu season when people’s immune systems are weaker from viruses.
“Last year South Western Sydney Local Health District reported 12 cases of meningococcal disease,” he said.
“It is a rare but serious bacterial infection that can cause death within hours so the more symptoms people know about, the better.
“Most cases occur in infants, young children, teenagers and young adults, although people of any age can be affected.”
NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, says meningococcal can often mimic other common illnesses, so it is important people be aware nearer spring that nausea symptoms, vomiting, neck stiffness, joint pain, light sensitivity, or a sudden fever, could be something else.
“Most people normally associate meningococcal disease with aÔøº rash of red-purple spots or bruises but in some cases a rash doesn’t appear, or it could be the last symptom to take shape,” Dr Sheppeard said.
Meningococcal infection does not spread easily. It is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying the bacteria. Close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.
“It more commonly occurs in people aged between 15-24 years as they tend to be involved in more intimate social activities such as kissing,” Dr Sheppeard said.
Vaccination is the best means of protection against meningococcal disease. Any adolescents aged 15 to 19 years who miss the vaccine in school, are eligible for a free vaccine from their GP.