Increased risk of meningococcal disease in winter

17 July 2017

Western Australians are reminded to be alert to the symptoms of meningococcal disease this winter, following a recent rise in cases.

Young people
Be alert to the symptoms of meningococcal disease this winter

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon but life-threatening illness caused by a bacterial infection of the blood or spinal cord and brain membranes. The disease is more common in winter and spring.

The Department of Health has reported four cases of meningococcal disease in Western Australia in the last three weeks. The latest case is of a middle aged Western Australian who is recovering in hospital.

While in recent years the number of meningococcal cases has dropped – from a high of 86 cases in 2000, down to 16 cases in 2013 – it may be increasing again.

Last year 23 cases were reported and so far this year there have been 14 cases.

Meningococcal infection is most commonly associated with children and young people, however, infection can occur at any age.

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

In WA, there are a variety of vaccines available for the different types of meningococcal infection .

Free vaccines:

Children at 12 months of age can get vaccinated for free against meningococcal disease (serogroup C type).

This year, a free vaccine program was launched to provide young people aged 15-19 years with a vaccine against meningococcal disease (combined vaccine, serogroup ACWY).

Find out more about the meningococcal vaccine.