Meningitis in NZ

Pharmacist in white gloves jabs the arm of a patient with a needle.

Bacterial meningitis is the most severe and common form of meningitis. There are several different groups of meningococcal bacteria including groups A B C W & Y.

In 2019 there were 139 cases of meningococcal disease reported in New Zealand and 10 people died. Most cases were caused by Group B, followed by Group W.  Even with prompt diagnosis and treatment, approximately 10-20 people with meningitis will die within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms and up to 30% of survivors will sustain permanent damage and disability. 

Infants and children under 5 years old and young people between 13 -25 are most at risk.  So what else increases the risk of contracting meningitis besides age? 

  • Exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Binge drinking
  • Living in group accommodation – boarding hostels, halls of residence, crowded flats, military barracks or prison
  • Having an existing condition that affects the immune system.

 

In New Zealand there are two types of meningococcal vaccinations – a conjugate vaccine covering Groups ACYW (funded), and a multicomponent recombinant vaccine covering Group B only (non-funded).  Although there is only Government funding for ACYW, both are equally important, because it has been shown that Group B leads to more cases.

We encourage all young people aged between 13 and 25 and their parents to consider whether protection against the serious complications of meningococcal disease is necessary.  Our pharmacists can make recommendations around which vaccines are available and can also administer the shots.  Now is the time for first year tertiary students to get prepared!  #heretohelp