Dr Jasper Mahon
Bacterial meningitis is a severe, rapidly progressing, life-threatening infection of the lining of the brain.
Whilst there has been a general decline over the years in the incidence of meningitis there has been a spike in cases in WA this year with 17 contracting the disease and 3 deaths. Several different types of bacteria may be responsible; Pneumococcus, Haemophilus influenzae, and Meningococcus subgroups A, C, W, Y & B. Of the cases in WA, 10 were caused by the W strain, 4 by B, 2 by Y and the other is uncertain. Vaccination against Pneumococcal, Haemophilus and Meningitis C infections has been part of the National Immunisation Programme for a number of years, however none of the other meningococcal strains are included. A vaccine has been available against W,A,C and Y has been available for many years but has largely been used for travellers eg to the Hajj more recently a B strain vaccine has arrived (Bexsero) and has now been incorporated into several countries' (eg USA, UK) immunisation programmes. Unfortunately, despite mounting pressure, Australia has yet to adopt this. It is available by prescription through GPs (however at present there is an international shortage of the vaccine).