MENINGOCOCCAL survivor Eliza Ault-Connell says the passion behind Ballarat’s 4EK movement should not be underestimated in the impact this has in saving lives.
New research shows Australian parents are confused in how to best protect against the deadly disease.
More than half of parents were unaware meningococcal could be caused by multiple bacteria strains and almost 70 per cent of parents did not know different vaccinations were needed for protection, according to results of a nationwide survey released on Thursday.
Vaccination is important. Symptoms can progress rapidly. Putting off going to the doctor tomorrow can be too late...a person could feel healthy at breakfast and dead by dinner.Meningococcal Australia's Eliza Ault-Connell
Ms Ault-Connell, from Meningococcal Australia, said vaccination program variations between states also created a lack of understanding among parents about immunisations.
“The uptake in Ballarat from the 4EK movement is absolutely fantastic,” Ms Ault-Connell said.
“Extended family and friends have done a lot to raise awareness. I met an 18-year-old from Ballarat recently who did not know them but who told me he got vaccinated because he heard about it.
The 4EK foundation promotes meningococcal awareness in memory of Emma-Kate McGrath, who contracted W-strain of the disease and died, aged 19, in May, 2017.
There is power in what this family has done in education.Eliza Ault-Connell
The foundation is also exploring ways to build on Emma-Kate’s legacy for helping people with ways to support children and families affected by the deadly bacterial infection. Read more about this here.
Globally, there are 13 strains of meningococcal bacteria with five strains mainly responsible for cases in Australia. There is no one vaccine to protect against all strains.
More than 83 per cent of Victorian parents were not aware governments do not fully subsidise vaccination for all vaccine-preventable strains of meningococcal disease.
Young people are most likely to spread the disease to each other.
Ms Ault-Connell said it was vital people speak with their general practitioner to determine which vaccine was most relevant to them.
What vaccinations are available in Victoria?
- A vaccine against A, C, W, Y strains of the disease is on the National Immunisation Program for infants aged 12 months
- The ACWY vaccine is also free to children and young people, aged under 20, who have not had a separate meningococcal C vaccine
- In Victoria, the vaccine will be available for free to year 10 students and those aged 15-19 years not at school from April
- A vaccine for meningococcal B, most common in infants, is available privately from doctors and is recommended for high-risk groups, including adolescents and people with low immune conditions
- Meningococcal Australia recommends vaccination as best prevention, due to the wide-ranging symptoms and rapid progression of the disease.
People are urged to speak to their doctors for which vaccines are best for them
KEY FACTS TO KNOW
WHAT IS MENINGOCOCCAL?
Meningococcal is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not recognised and treated in time. There are multiple strains of the disease and people can present different signs and symptoms.
About 10 per cent of people infected will die and about 20 per cent will be left with permanent disabilities.
Bacteria is passed between people in fluids from the back of the nose and throat in prolonged contact, like kissing or living with an infected person.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
People of all ages can be infected but those most at risk are babies and young children, due to their developing immune systems, and teenagers and young adults, due to their socially interactive lifestyles.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS?
Meningococcal can appear in various forms of meningitis (affecting the brain and spinal cord) or septicaemia (blood poisoning).
Common symptoms include fever, nausea or vomiting, tiredness or drowsiness, disorientation, dizziness, irritability or a sore throat.
The distinctive meningococcal rash can be a critical sign of septicaemia. This may start as a spot or blister, form pinpricks on the skin, then develop into the purple bruising. There may also be fever, pain, diarrhoea.
Meningococcal Australia’s Eliza Ault-Connell said rapid diagnosis was essential but difficult for even the most experienced health professionals because symptoms were wide-ranging and everyone responded differently.
“Vaccination is important. Symptoms can progress rapidly. Putting off going to the doctor tomorrow can be too late...a person could feel healthy at breakfast and dead by dinner,” Ms Ault-Connell said.
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