Otago students advised to get immunised over break

Student Health Services operations manager Margaret Perley. Photo: Supplied
Student Health Services operations manager Margaret Perley. Photo: Supplied

University of Otago students are being urged to get immunised against meningococcal disease over the summer break as the number of cases of the disease continues to rise.

In recent months a more virulent strain of meningococcal disease (Group W) has been identified, mostly in Northland.

Student Health Services operations manager Margaret Perley said young people aged 15-19 years-old are in a high risk group for the life-threatening disease which can also permanently disable survivors.

"We strongly recommend all students and particularly those living in residential colleges be vaccinated against meningococcal disease," Perley said.

There are usually at least one or two cases of meningococcal disease at the university annually and this year there were four, she said.

Several people have died of meningococcal disease in New Zealand this year with some of these deaths caused by the Group W strain, which has a higher fatality rate than the B and C strains.

Student Health Services clinical group leader of nursing Katherine Martin said three injections were required to provide optimal protection against current circulating strains of meningococcal disease: two of the meningitis B vaccine, which need to be at least four weeks apart and one of the meningitis ACYW vaccine.

"We would encourage students attending university next year to begin their immunisation schedule as soon as possible, to ensure they have coverage for the start of the academic year in 2019," Martin said.

Students are encouraged to book a 15 minute nurse appointment for their vaccination. Students residing out of Dunedin are encouraged to contact their local general practice to discuss vaccination.  Any necessary follow-up vaccinations can be carried out at Student Health Services in Dunedin.

The Northland District Health Board website says vaccine stocks are limited, both nationally and internationally. New Zealand has purchased the 20,000 doses that are available immediately and Northland has been given these doses for the most vulnerable in our community.

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