THE Wide Bay Public Health Unit is urging members of the community to access the 2017 flu vaccine.
THE Wide Bay Public Health Unit is urging members of the community to access the 2017 flu vaccine. Warren Lynam

Free vaccine for deadly disease

A FREE vaccine for teenagers between the age of 15 and 19 has been made available by the Queensland Government in order to reduce chances of contracting meningococcal ACWY.

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service public health physician Dr Margaret Young said the program has been introduced to help combat the substantial rise in the number of meningococcal W and Y cases during 2016.

Meningococcal is a rare, but severe infection that occurs when meningococcal bacteria invade the body from the throat or nose.

There are 13 different strains with the most common being A, B, C, W and Y.

"Some of the highest rates of meningococcal carriage occur among 15-19 year olds and this age group can also transmit the meningococcal bacteria to people who are at increased risk of infection, including young children - this is why this age group will be given the Meningococcal ACWY vaccine," she said.

"Vaccinating the 15-19 age group will immediately reduce their risk of meningococcal disease caused by strains A, C, W and Y and over time it will reduce instances of the disease in the wider community.

"Most people with meningococcal infection fully recover, but some people who survive can develop long-term health complications including limb deformity, skin scarring, deafness and possible loss of brain function.

"Meningococcal W has a higher death rate and may be fatal in 1 in 10 cases."

From 2006-2016 there were six cases of meningococcal in Bundaberg, affecting all age groups, all serotypes.

This year to date, there has only been one case of the disease in the Rum City.

Dr Young said the Meningococcal ACWY vaccine is safe and effective, with similar programs targeting this age group have been effectively implemented in the United Kingdom since 2015 and in the US since 2005.



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