Meningococcal disease South Island cases update

Thursday August 4, 2011

Community and Public Health have confirmed the South Island patients with meningococcal disease are either recovering well or have completely recovered.

Fulton Hogan chief executive Bill Perry died on Saturday after contracting Meningococcal C. A colleague, a man in his 40s, is recovering well in Dunedin Hospital after also being diagnosed with Meningococcal disease that has been linked to Mr Perry.

A third case, a woman, also in her 40s is recovering in Christchurch Hospital and Community and Public Health has established her case is not linked to the two men.

A baby also reported to be in Dunedin Hospital with Meningococcal disease has been discharged.  The baby had W135 strain of Meningococcal disease and is not linked to any of the other cases.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey says it’s a credit to the Community and Public Health teams for ruling out links between the cases so quickly.

At this point in time there is also no reason to launch a vaccination programme against Meningococcal disease, he says.

“If people have further concerns then they should discuss these with their family doctor,” Dr Humphrey says.

“Meningococcal disease is not easily transmitted from person to person.  It’s transmitted only by close personal contact that allows the bacteria to pass from the nose and throat of one person to another.” 

The people most at risk are those who have been: 

  • Living in the same household and sleeping in the same room (for at least six hours)

  • Sharing air-space in confined quarters for substantial periods (e.g. a six hour long car trip)

People in these categories may be considered ‘close contacts’ and prescribed a short course of antibiotics to reduce the risk of developing meningococcal disease. Community and Public Health staff have given advice and treatment to all the close contacts of cases in the Canterbury and Southern District Health Board areas.

The meningococcus bacteria are normally present in the nose and throat of 10-20 percent of the population and are frequently passed from person to person without causing harm.  On rare occasions they may penetrate the body defences to cause an ‘invasive’ life threatening illness.  This can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics if the condition is diagnosed early.

Those who have been fully vaccinated with MeNZB vaccine will have protection against the epidemic strain of Meningococcal B disease only. The signs and symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease include (not all symptoms may be present):

  • looking ‘really unwell’ and getting worse

  • fever

  • a skin rash (reddish purple blotchy spots or bruising from bleeding into the skin)

  • headache, nausea and neck stiffness, irritation by bright light.

The incubation period for meningococcal disease can be up to 10 days (usually 3-4 days). 

People with concerns about acute illness should contact their family doctor or seek medical advice without delay no matter what time day or night.​

Page last reviewed: 14 February 2014