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Deadly Disease Outbreak in Fiji

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Deadly Disease Outbreak in Fiji

Deadly Disease Outbreak in Fiji

In a statement, the ministry said the meningococcal disease could be treated at a health facility with antibiotic medication and people with the disease would be admitted to hospital.

According to the ministry, there were 48 reported cases of the meningococcal disease last year compared to 29 in 2016.  There have already been 18 cases reported as at 21 February this year.

The ministry, citing a World Health Organisation study, said up to half of the people with the disease would die without medical treatment.

From the total patients who are appropriately treated, around 10-15% die while 20% have permanent disabilities including severe brain damage.

In Fiji, 14.4% of patients with the disease died last year.  In context, the death rate for dengue fever in Fiji is 0.4-0.6% annually even during outbreaks, the ministry says.

Signs and symptoms of Meningococcal Disease
Ministry of Health and Medical Services

Symptoms of the meningococcal disease, especially for older children and adults include sudden fever, vomiting, headache, and stiff neck/backache.

Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Eyes are sensitive to light
  • Confusion
  • Rash – red/purple spots on the skin

It can be difficult to notice the symptoms in babies, or they may not be there at all. Some of the symptoms that you should be alert for are:

  • High fever
  • Unusual crying
  • Refusing to eat or drink
  • Vomiting
  • Floppy/drowsy
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Seizures or Fits
  • Rash – red/purple spots on the skin

This is a deadly disease. If a person has the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease, they require urgent medical treatment.

Meningococcal Disease is Spread from Person to Person

The meningococcal disease bacteria are not easily transmitted but are spread from person to person via transfer of saliva or spit. This can happen when a person with the bacteria coughs on an uninfected person or deeply kisses an
uninfected person on the mouth. It may also spread through the sharing of drinks from the same glass/cup/water bottle or bowl e.g. kava, or taki alcohol at a nightclub.

Babies and children under the age of 5 frequently put things into their mouths, therefore they are at higher risk of getting the bacteria.

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 symptoms. This is because the bacteria need to get into the bloodstream to cause the disease.

Certain People are at Increased Risk for Meningococcal Disease

  • Anyone can get meningococcal disease. However, babies, children, teenagers and young adults are the most at risk of getting meningococcal disease.
  • There is an increased risk of meningococcal disease spreading in boarding schools and between people living in the same house.
  • People who have certain medical conditions that weaken their immune systems are also at increased risk.

Prevention

Practising 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 tissue 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 at a social gathering (taki), cigarettes, or kava bowls.

Source: Newsfire Fiji

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