Northern Territory Government Newsroom

Update - Meningococcal outbreak in Central Australia

The meningococcal disease outbreak continues in Central Australia, the Barkly, Katherine and Katherine West regions. To date there have been 25 confirmed cases of Meningococcal W with one case awaiting final laboratory testing. All of those affected in this outbreak to date are Aboriginal people, 19 cases are children less than ten years of age.

The Northern Territory (NT) health authorities are working closely with their counterparts in the other jurisdictions to mount a coordinated public health response to the outbreak.

The NT Department of Health has identified the close contacts of these cases and provided appropriate antibiotics and a vaccine to minimise the chance that the organism might be passed on to others.

In addition, this week a mass vaccination program is being rolled out in the affected regions. Coordinated by the NT Centre for Disease Control (CDC), government and non-government health services including Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations and general practitioners will be able to offer NT Health funded vaccine to all people aged between 12 months and 19 years living in remote communities and all Aboriginal people aged between 12 months and 19 years living in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine.

Dr Charles Douglas, the Acting Director of CDC said “This is a massive effort on the part of all the health services in the region and is focussing on those most at risk and those who are most likely to be carrying the germ in their nose or throat.”

“Those who are not in the high risk groups can see their local health clinic or GP to discuss the need for vaccination and purchase the meningococcal vaccine on presentation of a script to a community pharmacy if required.”

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon but very serious disease. It is treatable with antibiotics but the infection can progress very quickly. Dr Douglas says it is important for people to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical advice early for either themselves or their children if they have any concerns.

Symptoms include fever, headache, neck stiffness, an aversion to bright lights, a rash and joint pain. Those affected may also have vomiting and diarrhoea, be difficult to wake up and babies may refuse food and drink and have a high pitched cry.

Media Contact: Dimitra Grehl 0427 596 954