Aussie teen dies of meningococcal as festivalgoers issued urgent warning

A teenager in NSW has lost her life after contracting meningococcal disease as authorities warn of a potential outbreak following a music festival in the ACT.

The girl’s death was confirmed by NSW Health on Monday night. She is the third person to die from the disease in the state this year.

“Sadly a woman in her late teens has died from meningococcal disease,” health officials said in a statement. “NSW Health expresses its sincere condolences to her loved ones.”

There have been 29 cases of meningococcal reported in NSW in 2022. The majority of cases have been due to the meningococcal B strain of the infection.

A meningococcal rash on a baby's leg (left) and a person's leg (right).
People are being urged to watch out for the signs of meningococcal disease after a teenage girl in NSW lost her life. Source: SA Health/Meningitis Now.

The news comes just two days after health authorities issued an alert for those who attended the Spilt Milk festival in Canberra after a case was detected.

In a statement on Saturday, ACT Health said the infected person had been admitted to Canberra Hospital. It urged everyone who had been at Exhibition Park on November 26 to be aware of the symptoms of the disease and “act immediately” if they appear. It is not yet known if the NSW teen attended the festival.

Growing number of meningococcal cases

While meningococcal disease is rare thanks to the vaccine, health authorities say they’ve seen a slight increase in cases in recent weeks compared with the same period over the past five years. NSW Health is urging parents and young people to be alert to the symptoms, and says the disease can still occur in people even if they have been vaccinated.

A baby receiving the meningococcal vaccine.
NSW Health says the vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and community from the harmful effects of meningococcal disease. Source: AAP

“Meningococcal disease symptoms can appear suddenly and become very serious, very quickly,” Executive Director of Health Protection NSW, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said. “I urge everyone not to discount symptoms when they appear or assume it may be just a mild infection.”

“If you suspect meningococcal disease, don’t wait for the rash,” he added. “See a doctor immediately.”

Symptoms include severe, unexplained limb pain, difficulty waking up, high pitched crying in babies, severe headaches, a stiff neck and a red-purple rash.

As part of the National Immunisation Program, the vaccine is free for babies at 12 months, adolescents and people of all ages with certain medical conditions.

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