Everything you need to know about Meningococcal Disease

VAXMed Executive Director, Dr Jurgen Michaelis says that vaccination is the "best option" and "highly effective" for fighting the potentially fatal disease. 
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With numbers of meningococcal-related illnesses and deaths steadily rising across the country, many Australians have been left wondering if they are protected. 

Currently, vaccinations for strains A, W, Y, and C are covered at no charge to the recipient under the National Immunisation Program. 

The B strain however – which is the most deadly and most common – comes with a cost of between $100 to $200 per person. 

WATCH NOW: Understanding meningococcal disease. Article continues after video. 

VAXMed Executive Director, Dr Jurgen Michaelis says that vaccination is the “best option” and “highly effective” for fighting the potentially fatal disease. 

“Vaccination has benefits at two levels, the protection of the individual and the creation of herd immunity. This occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease. The spread of disease from person to person becomes unlikely when herd immunity is achieved.”

“As a result, the whole community becomes better protected – not just those who are immune. Getting vaccinated is good for the individual and something we can contribute to our society, a common good to keep the entire community healthy.”

Vaccines are readily available in Australia. (Credit: Getty)

According to Dr. Michaelis, whilst Australia has seen a “remarkable reduction” in the spread of meningococcal in the last ten years, the population needed to remain vigilant, especially when it comes to understanding the differences between the vaccines. 

“No single vaccine protects against all [strains]. Therefore, it is important to get advice from your GP on which of the vaccines is the most suitable.” 

“The other consideration is that some meningococcal vaccines have to be given several times, the same as we have seen with COVID-19, where booster injections were necessary to increase immunity.”

Dr Jurgen Michaelis. (Credit: VaxMed)

So which groups are most at risk of contracting meningococcal? 

Infants and young children, adolescents or students living in close contact with one another, those undergoing medical treatment, and soldiers living in army barracks are all at the top of the list. 

“Anyone who wants to protect themselves against meningococcal disease can talk to their vaccination provider about getting vaccinated,” Dr Michaelis adds. 

Meningococcal vaccines being produced. (Credit: Getty)

For those needing a reminder, meningococcal disease can cause people to become unwell rapidly. 

So intense are these symptoms, Dr. Michaelis says sufferers “feel sicker than they have ever felt before.”

“It is a severe infection that can cause bad scarring, loss of limbs, brain damage, and death.”

“Meningococcal disease is transmitted by close prolonged household and intimate contact. The spread of the disease is through the infected secretions from the back of the nose and throat through air droplets from respiratory secretions.”

Roughly 10 to 15 in 100 people infected will die, with up to 1 in 5 survivors facing long-term disabilities. 

More information about meningococcal disease and the vaccines available in Australia can be found here. 

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