Media Release: Meningococcal Disease Outbreak, 21 March 2018

Not everyone who has the bacteria will get the disease. Approximately 10-20% of the general population will carry the bacteria at the back of their nose and mouth from time to time, but will not have any symptoms. This is because meningococcal disease only occurs when the bacteria get into the bloodstream, and this happens in less than 1% of those that have it.

Anyone can get meningococcal disease. However, it occurs most often in babies, children under the age of 5, teenagers and young adults. And there is an increased risk of meningococcal disease spreading in boarding schools and between people living within the same house.

Practicing proper hygiene can help prevent the spread of the disease:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with tissue or handkerchief when coughing and sneezing. Dispose of tissues in the bin, wash handkerchief daily with soap and water
  • After coughing or sneezing, wash your hands with soap and water
  • Don’t share eating utensils, cups/glasses/water bottles, drinks (taki), cigarettes, or kava bowls.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services has set up a Meningococcal Disease Taskforce that is working to strengthen early detection and urgent treatment of patients suspected to have meningococcal disease at all health facilities. This will involve training of clinical staff in case management, as well as training public health officers in preventing spread in the community through education and treatment of close contacts of cases. The Taskforce is also conducting urgent consultations with our development partners on procurement of vaccines for meningococcal disease.

Public awareness is also a key component of the Ministry’s strategy to combat the disease, and we urge everyone to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease (described in the attached information sheet) and go urgently to a health facility if they are present.

For more information please visit your nearest health facility or the ‘My Health Section’ on the Ministry of Health and Medical Service website[1]

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