How a kiss can kill at Schoolies Week

 

QUEENSLAND schoolies are being urged to get a meningococcal B vaccine over fears post-graduation celebrations increase the risk of contracting the potentially deadly disease.

The Queensland Government refused to fund vaccinations against the B strain for teenagers after it was rejected for inclusion in the National Immunisation Program.

But one of the country's leading disease experts wants schoolies, or their parents, to pay for the vaccination to keep young people out of the morgue.

National Centre for Immunisation Research head of clinical research Robert Booy said it was important for parents not to underestimate the dangers of B just because it was not included in Queensland's free vaccinations.

Schoolies are being encouraged to get a meningococcal B vaccine.
Schoolies are being encouraged to get a meningococcal B vaccine.

 

"Make no mistake, it can put you in the morgue and I advise schoolies to go to their doctor and pay for the injection. Young people who are pashing and smoking and mixing closely with people in crowds should be protected. It is important for those aged between 15 and 24 to be covered," Professor Booy told The Courier-Mail.

"While it may take 10 days to get the full impact of the vaccine, it is worth those heading to schoolies this weekend to get it right away to help stave off the bacteria," he said.

Earlier this year Queensland Health ruled out following South Australia's lead by adding the B strain for babies and young people to its free jabs.

The number of meningococcal cases in the state is more than 30 this year.

Kissing, alongside sharing cigarettes and drinks, can spread the deadly disease. Picture: Lindsay Moller
Kissing, alongside sharing cigarettes and drinks, can spread the deadly disease. Picture: Lindsay Moller

Meanwhile, nationally, The Australian Academy of Science is urging parents to vaccinate their children against all five strains of meningococcal disease, after a spike in cases in Adelaide and the death of a seven-year-old boy in southwest Sydney.

The call by the academy follows the release of its new video campaign, developed in partnership with the Australian Department of Health, to educate consumers and medical professionals about the disease.

Spring is a peak time for the disease with babies and children up to the age of five years and teenagers and young adults aged from 15 to 24 years among those at most risk of contracting the disease. People with suppressed immune systems, smokers and those living in crowded accommodation are also at greater risk.

Schoolies on the beach at Surfers Paradise. Picture: Mike Batterham
Schoolies on the beach at Surfers Paradise. Picture: Mike Batterham

Prof Booy, who features in the campaign, said there were five common strains of meningococcal disease in Australia: A, B, C, W and Y.

"We had a surge in W (strain) leading to nearly 150 cases last year and a surge in Y (strain) leading to 75 cases last year," Prof Booy said.

The total number of notifications nationally has risen from 0.5 per 100,000 of the population in 2013 to more than 1.5 per 100,000 in 2017.

Queensland Health said the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee had twice rejected submissions to include the B vaccine on the National Immunisation Program.



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