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National Health Advisory - Notification of Meningococcal Disease outbreak

This is an information/advisory only. No action is required.

On 13 August 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) was notified of two cases of meningococcal disease (serogroup W) in scouts from Scotland who had attended the recent World Scout Jamboree (WSJ) in Japan, 28 July-8 August 2015. Two additional cases were later identified in Scotland, including one parent of a scout (who was not a case). As of 18 August one case and three suspected cases have been reported from WSJ attendees from Sweden. One Swedish case is hospitalised in critical condition. 

30 people (23 scouts of both genders, age range 14-18 years, and seven adults) from New Zealand attended the WSJ. As the NZ participants were located far from the scout units demonstrating infection, and the upper range of incubation for meningococcal disease is generally 10 days with the WSJ having ended 8 August, the likelihood of any cases occurring now in New Zealand is low. Nonetheless, hospitals and PHUs should be vigilant for cases in attendees or close contacts of attendees.

Neisseria meningitidis is transmitted from person-to-person through respiratory or throat secretions from infected persons / persons carrying the bacteria. Close and prolonged contact, or living in close quarters with an infected person facilitates the spread of meningococcal disease. Incubation period varies from 2 to 10 days (average 4 days). Meningococcal disease is potentially fatal and should always be viewed as a medical emergency. Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started, 5% to 10% of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms.

The WSJ has notified all attendees regarding the outbreak and has distributed information about the disease through the national Scout leadership groups. This precautionary approach seeks to inform all participants of the 23rd World Scout Jamboree of the risk of meningococcal disease and suggest they seek medical attention if they experience any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Stiff neck
  • High fever
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Confusion, change in mental status
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Rash, bruising
  • Joint, muscle pain

For any questions, please contact the Communicable Disease Team at the Ministry of Health:

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