WITH three meningococcal cases diagnosed in the Loddon Mallee region this year, the Victorian government is urging teenagers aged 15-19 to get the free vaccination ahead of summer.
The arrival of the warmer weather heralds the peak time for meningococcal disease, which can be spread through close social contact such as kissing, coughing or sneezing. Young people and smokers are particularly at risk of contracting the disease.
Protection against the deadly disease takes up to two weeks after receiving the vaccination and with summer fast approaching, young people aged 15-19 years old and parents of teenagers in this age group are reminded to contact their GP or local council to receive the vaccination on offer until December 31.
Statewide, five people have died from meningococcal this year and 74 cases have been diagnosed compared to 52 cases for the same time last year, health experts predict this number will continue to rise.
So far this year 24 cases in regional Victoria have been diagnosed compared to 15 cases at the same time in 2016, and the Department of Health and Human Services figures reveal two cases of meningococcal have been diagnosed in the Greater Bendigo area.
In 10 per cent of cases meningococcal disease proves to be fatal, with death occurring within 24-48 hours of diagnosis. Of those who survive the disease, 20 per cent of people are left with a permanent disability such as brain damage or the loss of fingers, toes or limbs.
Minister for Health Jill Hennessy said prevention methods are better than cure.
“Immunisation saves lives and protects others in the community. With the summer season rapidly approaching and bringing with it more chance for young people to get out and be social, eligible young people should take action and get the free meningococcal vaccine,’’ Ms Hennessy said.
“If you are eligible, and you haven’t received it yet, get the free vaccine as soon as you can, whether it’s from the GP, at school or at a local council immunisation session.”