Public Warning Issued After Four Children Diagnosed With Deadly Meningococcal

Four children in Brisbane have been hospitalised with confirmed cases of meningococcal disease. The unexpected outbreak has caused Queensland Health to issue a warning to all parents to watch for the signs and symptoms of the uncommon but potentially deadly disease.


Queensland Children Victims of Deadly Disease

A disease that kills one in ten of those infected has struck four children in Brisbane in the past five days.

On New Year’s Day three children, all aged under five, were admitted to Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane after feeling ill. It was confirmed that the three children (two siblings and a cousin) had contracted meningococcal disease, an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not recognised and treated in time.

Yesterday, another child was also admitted to hospital in Brisbane with a confirmed case of the disease. The fourth child is not related to the other three.

While authorities explain that the three children from the same family most likely contracted the disease during a family gathering, it is unclear how the fourth child came into contact with the disease.

All four children are in stable condition but will remain in hospital for a few more days. Those identified as having close contact with the children have been given antibiotics.

What Exactly is Meningococcal Disease?

Meningococcal is described as an acute bacterial infection that invades the body through the throat or nose.

Up to one in 10 patients with invasive meningococcal disease in Australia dies. Of those who survive, one in 30 has severe skin scarring or loss of limbs, and one in 30 has severe brain damage.

There are 13 strains of meningococcal disease globally. The two most common strains in Australia are B and C and, while a vaccination for meningococcal C is given at 12 months of age, it cannot protect against every strain.

The strain of the meningococcal disease that infected the four children has yet to be confirmed.

General Public Warned, But Not at Increased Risk

Although the four instances have sparked warning, Queensland Health said the general public is not at increased risk of the disease as it is generally only spread after close, prolonged contact. They have, however, urged parents to know the signs of meningococcal disease which include:

  • Fever
  • Refusal to eat
  • Irritability
  • Grunting or moaning
  • Extreme tiredness or floppiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Turning away from light
  • Convulsions
  • Rash of red or purple pinprick spots or larger bruises

The recent warning comes only a few days after Queensland authorities also issued a statement about the potentially deadly Irukandji jellyfish in southern Queensland waters and just weeks after two people in Queensland were hospitalised with confirmed cases of diphetheria

written by:

Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna traded in the cold mountain air for the laid back lifestyle of Australia nine years ago. She is now a mum to one son, one daughter, one dog and one cat, all of whom live with her and her partner in Cairns, QLD. When not writing about the ups and downs of parenting, she is usually outside doing some form of physical activity or indulging in a glass of antioxidant-infused fruit drink. Okay, it's wine.