Boy diagnosed with meningococcal in far north Queensland

A case of meningococcal disease in far north Queensland is a cause for concern.

The boy, aged three and a half years developed a high fever on Monday and then developed a telltale rash and was diagnosed with meningococcal disease.

The boy was transferred by helicopter from Atherton Hospital to Cairns later that afternoon and is now in the intensive care unit at Cairns Base Hospital and on a ventilator; his parents and siblings are at his side.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Hanna from the Tropical Population Health Network the boy became very sick, very quickly and is now critically ill.

The boy attended Atherton's First Steps Early Childhood Learning Centre and health authorities yesterday visited the centre to talk to concerned parents and provide short courses of antibiotics to the children in his group.

Dr. Hanna has stressed that meningococcal septicemia is rare, with only 15-20 cases recorded in the area north from Mackay each year.

The bacteria is a common organism which is carried in the back of the nose and throat by about 10 per cent of the population, at any one time.

Dr. Hanna says the carrier is likely to be somebody within the child's immediate household, his parents or two siblings, or the children or staff at the childcare centre he frequented, rather than any casual contact.

At present his parents and siblings are all well and the next 48 hours will probably be critical.

Cairns is also experiencing it's first measles outbreak in 11 years with two more cases, a 17-month-old boy and a woman, 33, both from the Cairns area, diagnosed with the highly contagious disease.

This takes the toll this year to eight; the other cases were four unvaccinated school students from Cairns and Kuranda and two men working at a mine about four hours west of Cairns.

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