With six meningococcal cases diagnosed in the Gippsland region this year, the Victorian Government is urging teenagers aged 15-19 years old 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 31 December 2017.
Statewide, five people have died from meningococcal this year and 74 cases have been diagnosed (as at 27 October) compared to 52 cases for the same time last year and 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 six cases of meningococcal have been diagnosed in the Gippsland region (as at 27 October 2017) which includes three cases diagnosed in Wellington LGA; two cases diagnosed in Baw Baw LGA; and one case diagnosed in the Latrobe LGA.
One in five young people in the 15-19 year age group carry the bacteria which can be easily passed on to other family members and friends. The best way to protect young people and the whole community is through the free and safe vaccination.
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.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy:
"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.
"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."
Quotes attributable to Deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton:
"We have seen a significant rise in meningococcal cases over the last 12 months with new strains of the disease causing serious illness and deaths across Victoria.
"It's important to note that this free meningococcal vaccine is different to the one given to young children and protects against four strains of the deadly disease, which are all on the rise."
More information about local immunisation initiatives are available on local council websites. For health advice call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24, or call 000 in an emergency.
Reviewed 30 October 2017