Confirmed case of Meningococcal Disease in Christchurch

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Mar 08, 2023 |

National Public Health Service Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink confirmed that an 18-year-old student was admitted to Christchurch Hospital this week with meningococcal disease.

“This is the third case of meningococcal disease in Canterbury this year,” says Dr Pink.

“We have identified the close contacts of the person and they have all received antibiotics, to prevent them developing meningococcal disease. The bacteria pass from one person to another through secretions from the nose or throat, during close or prolonged contact and the chance of anyone else catching it is low.

“Members of the same household as a person who has the disease are at the highest risk of getting it, including those living in a hall of residence or boarding schools. 

“It is free for those in in their first year of living in halls of residence or in boarding schools to get vaccinated against meningococcal disease and I would strongly encourage those who are eligible to get their vaccinations for the extra protection, whether that is at your student health medical centre or general practice,” says Dr Pink

Meningococcal disease is a fast-moving illness, which has symptoms similar to a number of other illnesses such as influenza.

“It’s a bacterial infection that can cause two very serious illnesses: meningitis (an infection of the membranes that cover the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). It can affect anyone – but it’s more common in children under the age of 5, teenagers, and young adults.

“Up to 15% of people carry the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in their nose and throat without being sick. In some people, for reasons we don’t fully understand, these bacteria sometimes go on to cause disease, spreading through the bloodstream (causing blood poisoning) or to the brain (causing meningitis). The bacteria are spread in secretions from the nose or throat by coughing, sneezing and kissing,” Dr Pink said.

Signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease 

Meningococcal disease symptoms typically develop very quickly over a few hours, but in some cases may develop more slowly over several days. A person with meningococcal disease may only have some of the symptoms. The symptoms don’t develop in any particular order.

Common symptoms of meningococcal disease include:

  • a fever (high temperature), although their hands and feet may feel cold

  • vomiting

  • muscle and joint aches and pains.

Common symptoms of meningitis include:

  • a headache, which may be severe

  • a stiff neck

  • sensitivity to bright light

  • drowsiness and confusion (being hard to wake them).

A red or purple rash is common, but it doesn’t always happen. One or two spots can appear anywhere on the body then many more appear looking like rash or bruises.

If you’re concerned that someone in your family might have meningococcal disease, call your doctor straight away or dial 111. Say what the symptoms are.

In Canterbury you can call your own general practice team 24/7 and after-hours when the practice is closed simply follow the instructions on the answer phone to be put through to a health professional who can provide free health advice. You can also call Healthline 0800 611 116 24/7.

If you have seen a doctor and gone home, but are still concerned, don’t hesitate to call your doctor again or seek further medical advice. 

More information on prevention can be found here:

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

Have you got a news tip? Get in touch here

got a news tip?