Man dead after meningococcal outbreak detected in WA


A man is dead and two others are in hospital after they were struck with a deadly disease that kills between five and 10 per cent of people who contract it.

WA Health has confirmed the three men were diagnosed with meningococcal disease, an uncommon but life-threatening bacterial infection of the blood and membranes that line the spinal cord and brain.

The outbreak marks the first cases detected in the state for 2024.

Last year, nine meningococcal cases were reported in WA and there were no deaths.

Meningococcal bacteria are not easily spread from person to person but an infection can be fatal.

“Sometimes, but not always, symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises,” WA Health said on Thursday.

“Symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains.

“Young children may not complain of symptoms, so fever, pale or blotchy complexion, vomiting, lethargy (inactivity), poor feeding and rash are important signs.

“Although treatable with antibiotics, meningococcal infection can progress very rapidly, so it is important that anyone with these symptoms seeks medical attention urgently.”

Most people recover from the disease, but meningococcal kills about five to 10 per cent of people who catch it, and about 15 per cent may experience long-term complications such as hearing loss, limb amputations or brain damage.

In WA, two cases were caused by serogroup B and one by serogroup W, WA Health said.

There are two types of meningococcal vaccine available — one protects against four serogroups of the meningococcal disease, namely serogroups A, C, W and Y, and the other protects against serogroup B.

Meningococcal bacteria is present in droplets discharged from the nose and throat when coughing or sneezing, but is not spread by saliva and does not survive more than a few seconds in the environment.

In December last year, a child in WA suffered a meningococcal infection.