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Why you need to know about Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease has been in the media again recently, reminding us of the devastating consequences of this infection, but finally we have a good news story regarding meningococcal W.


Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious infection which is caused by a bacterium Neisseria Meningitidis.  There are 13 different serogroups, but the ones that most commonly cause disease are A, B, C, W and Y.


A vaccine for serogroup C has been offered for free on the National Immunisation Schedule since 2003 and this serogroup is now considered rare and in 2016 only 1.2% of cases of meningococcal were found to be attributed to this serogroup.


Since 2013 serogroup W has been on the increase in Australia and in 2016, 44.5% of reported meningococcal cases were attributed to this serogroup.


The highest rates of meningococcal W occur in children under 5 and adolescents from age 15 – 19 years old, it tends to follow a seasonal trend and most commonly occurs in winter and beginning of spring.


This year in response to the increased incidence of Meningococcal W, the WA state government has introduced a government funded immunisation program targeting adolescents and young adults age 15 – 19.


Under this 3-year program adolescents from 15 – 19 are eligible for a government funded single dose of Meningococcal ACWY vaccine up until 31st December 2017.  Many school aged adolescents will have had their immunisations organised through their school.  Adolescents in this age range who are not in school or have not received the vaccine are encouraged to attend their GP practice to access the free immunisation.


From 2018 the government funded vaccine will only be offered to students in year 10, this is the perfect opportunity therefore for older adolescents to take advantage of this free vaccine.


GPs on Bayview offers a free (bulk billed) appointment for adolescents receiving the vaccine.


This article was written by Dr. Alison Philpott, and published in the Western Suburbs Weekly.

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