A child and a teenager were diagnosed with meningococcal disease, a serious bacterial infection of the meninges that affects the brain membrane and can cause severe brain damage or death. Both were diagnosed with the W strain of the infection but the physicians say their cases are not linked.
The child and the teen are now recovering in the hospital. The Western Australian Health Department pointed out that they already identified people who went into close contact with these patients and has also taken care of them.
These two are among the 14 out of 22 reported cases of meningococcal disease that emerged from the W strain this year. This year’s cases are more than the 17 reported cases in 2015. The W strain was diagnosed in just one case before 2014.
Meningococcal disease commonly occurs in winter and spring, experts said. While it has been known to affect the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain, it can sometimes affect other body parts, including the large joints.
As of now, Australians are not routinely vaccinated against the disease. Meanwhile, there is a global shortage of the vaccine for the B strain of meningococci.
Apparently, there is only one supplier of it worldwide but Western Australia Health Minister John Day asserted that the global shortage should not be a cause of concern for Australians.
“I don’t think people should be overly alarmed at all. We’ve had only five cases for B strain in Western Australia this year. Now they’ve had some tragic consequences, there’s no doubt about that, but I think people do need to keep it in perspective. There’s no guarantee the vaccine is going to work, I think it has about a 70 per cent success rate. So people need to be alert to the symptoms,” the Health Minister added.