INDEPENDENT NEWS

Auckland Meningitis Worst in Developed World

Published: Thu 22 Jul 1999 12:12 AM
Aucklanders Face Highest Meningitis Risk in Western World
by Selwyn Manning -
Meningitis is officially an epidemic in south Auckland with the highest rate of infection in the developed world.
That’s the Official word from Auckland Healthcare’s medical officer of health, Nick Jones.
The revelation follows another case of Meningitis diagnosed since Monday. Now a total of 23 people are lodged as having contracted the deadly meningicoccal disease in the past 22 days within the Auckland region.
A baby died from the disease in Mt Roskill earlier this week, and a 14 year old Whangarei girl died of meningitis on the weekend. To date two infants and two young adults have died this month.
Mr Jones says the south Auckland suburbs of Otara, Mangere, and Glen Innes show meningitis is most prevalent there.
He confirmed Auckland has “by far the highest rates in the western world.” However, public health officials have as yet no idea why?
Mr Jones says a Meningitis Case Study is currently studying all possible reasons why the disease has increased rapidly among the Auckland population over the past four years. The findings of the study will however be revealed at the end of this year - well past the high-risk months of late winter and spring.
Overcrowded housing conditions are highly suspected as contributing to the rapid advance of infection rates. Auckland’s infection rate, Mr Jones says, is six to eight times higher than other “developed countries”.
He says the rate of meningitis infection here “sits between” developed countries and West African countries where the later witness major epidemics of meningitis with up to 10 percent of their populations infected by the disease.
New Zealand’s epidemic shows a prevalence of a mutant strain of Meningitis type B214. The bacterium has also been identified in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom but failed to get a hold in the population like it has done here.
This strain is a bacterial form of Meningitis. Prevention can be achieved. Mr Jones says experience shows administering a course of antibiotics is an effective preventative when given to those living within the household of a person who has contracted the disease.
This month’s rate of Meningitis infection compares to 14 cases for Auckland for the same time last year.
For more on a reported link between overcrowding and lowering health status see http://www.angelfire.com/ak2/freelancenz/fnzsthauckhous.html
And refer to the Government’s response to this column http://www.angelfire.com/ak2/freelancenz/FNZ20NewsGovt.html
To come - Auckland Public Healthcare warning and description of symptoms.
Selwyn Manning - Scoop Auckland
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