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Meningococcal disease symptoms: NSW Health issues grim warning after second recorded death this year

The disease is rare but it can be fatal within hours if left untreated - and young Aussies are most at risk.

Health authorities are urging the community to stay alert for meningococcal symptoms following the death of a New South Wales man in his 20s.

The young man died from meningococcal B disease last week marking the state’s second death from the disease this year.

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So far in 2022, NSW Health says there have been 29 cases of the disease reported in NSW.

While the disease is uncommon thanks to widely adopted vaccines, it can occur year-round and health authorities are urging parents and young people to be aware.

Children under five and 15 to 25-year-olds are at the greatest risk of contracting meningococcal, which can be fatal within hours if left untreated.

There tends to be an uptick in cases in late winter and early spring, but NSW Health has seen a slight increase in recent weeks, compared with the same period over the previous five years.

A reddish purple rash is one of the symptoms of meningococcal, but experts say not to wait until it appears to seek health advice. Credit: 7NEWS

Health Protection NSW executive director Dr Jeremy McAnulty said early intervention can be the difference between life and death.

“Meningococcal disease symptoms can appear suddenly and become very serious very quickly. If you suspect meningococcal disease, don’t wait for the rash – see a doctor immediately,” McAnulty said.

Up to one in 10 cases of meningococcal die, and four in 10 infections result in permanent disabilities.

NSW Health says knowing the symptoms could help prevent premature death or life-long disability.

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Meningococcal disease symptoms
  • Severe, unexplained limb pain
  • Difficulty waking up
  • High pitched crying in babies
  • Severe headache
  • Upset by bright lights
  • Stiff neck
  • Red-purple rash which doesn’t disappear when pressed with a glass

If symptoms rapidly worsen, call triple-0 or visit the nearest emergency department.

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