WITH four meningococcal cases diagnosed in the Loddon Mallee region in 2017, the Victorian government has extended its free meningococcal vaccination program for Year 10 students until December 31.
The vaccination program was launched to combat increasing numbers of meningococcal disease across Victoria compared with five years ago. The majority of these cases are accounted for by increasing numbers of the previously rare ‘W’ and ‘Y’ strains of meningococcal disease.
Statewide, 89 cases were diagnosed in 2017, resulting in six deaths, compared to 78 cases in 2016 and 56 cases in 2015. Department of Health and Human Services figures reveal there were 28 cases diagnosed in regional Victoria in 2017, four of which were in the Loddon Mallee region.
So far this year (as at March 16), eight cases have been diagnosed throughout Victoria. Experts predict this number will continue to rise as we approach peak season for meningococcal disease.
“Our government is determined to protect our communities from this deadly disease by launching this meningococcal vaccination program for another year,’’acting Minister for Health Martin Foley said.
“The program provides young people in our communities easy access to a potentially life-saving vaccine, allowing families to feel confident in the health and safety of their children.”
Young people aged 15 and 16 years old are at a greater risk of carrying and spreading meningococcal bacteria, as one in five carry it in the back of their throats and can pass the bacteria to family members and friends. The best way to protect young people, and the wider community, is through the free and safe vaccination on offer.
One in 10 cases of meningococcal disease proves to be fatal with death occurring within 48 hours of diagnosis. Two in every 10 people who survive are left with a permanent disability such as brain damage or the loss of fingers, toes or limbs.
“Ensuring eligible young people are vaccinated is essential in protecting the wider community from this deadly disease,” deputy chief health officer Brett Sutton said.
The vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect against meningococcal disease. The free program is available until December 31 at scheduled school immunisation sessions, local council community immunisation sessions and from GPs.
For details about the community immunisation sessions contact City of Greater Bendigo Council.
For health advice call nurse on call on 1300606024, or call 000 in an emergency.