There has been lots of attention in the media recently around the very serious meningococcal disease. Caused by the same bacterium (Neisseria meningitidis), there are 13 types, of which five most commonly cause disease globally – A, B, C, W135 and Y. The disease is carried by droplet infection and can cause meningitis, septicaemia or a combination of the two. Although it can occur at any age, the majority of cases occur in the under 5 and 15-24 year age group.
Currently type W seems to be causing an unusually large proportion of cases here in WA. There are three different vaccines available for A,C,W & Y strains . Only two are recommended by the Health Department for long term protection (Menveo and Menactra). Neither are subsidised and are often used in travelling patients, however they are available to the general public as needed.
Meningococcal C used to be a common strain in Australia but a vaccine against it was introduced 13 years ago as part of the childhood vaccine schedule. Since then it has virtually disappeared. Type B strain has been the most common strain in recent times. There is also a vaccine against meningitis B but with a world wide shortage, there are currently supply issues and we are putting people on a waiting list and contacting them as stock arrives. This vaccine is not government subsidised as yet.
Unfortunately there is no vaccine available which contains all these strains together.
Anyone concerned about the disease and wanting more information or vaccination, should make an appointment to discuss it with one of our experienced doctors.
Dr David Rutherford