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‘Elderly’ West Australian in hospital with deadly meningococcal illness: WA Health

A West Australian has been hospitalised with the rare but life-threatening meningococcal disease, the Health Department has revealed.

Authorities were alerted to the case on Friday, only describing the patient as “an elderly person” who is infected with the disease’s serogroup Y variant.

It is the fifth confirmed infection of the disease – which is fatal in about five to 10 per cent of cases – to be recorded in the State so far this year.

A total of 10 cases were reported in WA in 2021.

Meningococcal is an uncommon, life-threatening illness which is caused by a bacterial blood infection that can also line the spinal cord and brain.

Health officials said the disease can also target a person’s throat, lungs and larger joints.

It spreads from person to person in rare occasions and cause severe symptoms including high fevers, nausea and body pains.

The disease may inflict sufferers with long-term complications such as limb amputations, brain damage or hearing loss.

“The bacterium 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,” a WA Health statement said.

“Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10 to 20 per cent of the population at any one time.

“Very rarely, the bacteria invade the bloodstream or tissues and causes serious infections.

“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 has renewed its calls for West Australian to check their vaccinations status for meningococcal.

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