Meningococcal W outbreak in APY lands

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Free meningococcal W vaccinations are being provided to people living in the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands communities in response to several recent cases of the disease within the region.

SA Health’s acting Chief Medical Officer, Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier, said two new cases have been confirmed from the region in an 11-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl this week, following a case in a 4-year-old boy last Friday.

“In response to a number of W-strain meningococcal disease cases in Aboriginal Australians residing in the APY Lands, we are providing free vaccinations to the local health clinic to help boost immunity across the communities,” Associate Professor Spurrier said.

“To reduce the likelihood of any further cases, we’re working with local Aboriginal community health care services to implement an immunisation program for all residents of the APY Lands.

“People aged one to 19 years will be the first to receive the vaccination against meningococcal strains A, C, W and Y as part of the program.

“While meningococcal infection is fairly rare and only passed person-to-person by close and prolonged contact, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms including a fever, headache, difficulty looking at bright lights, stiff neck, confusion, drowsiness, vomiting, sore muscles, or a purple rash, and seek medical advice.”

Nganampa Health Council Medical Director Dr Paul Torzillo said the vaccine would initially be administered to those aged one to 19 years who are in the age group most at risk. The program will likely expand to include older age groups at a later time.

“We’ve been working with SA Health’s Communicable Disease Control Branch to ensure immunisation is as accessible as possible,” Dr Torzillo said.

“We started vaccinating community members today and will continue to focus our efforts on this work.”

The SA Health response follows the Northern Territory Department of Health’s declaration late last month of an outbreak of meningococcal W in Central Australia, Barkly and Katherine West regions.

More information about meningococcal, including symptoms, treatment and prevention, can be found at

^ Back to top