Meningococcal Disease



(dramatic electronic music) – [Narrator] Christmas Day, 2017. Sisters Lily and Grace get
ready to enjoy lunch together. 12 hours later, Lily is
fighting for her life. – [Lily] I was terrified, really
terrified when I saw the rash. I thought I'd had an allergic
reaction to something, but I'd never seen on anyone
else, a reaction like that. And so, it sunk in how serious
that was, in that minute. (sirens wailing) – [Narrator] By the
time she got to hospital, doctors told Lily she was
30 minutes from death. – [Grace] They had no idea that
she had meningococcal until they brought her in, sat her down, and the doctor took her blood pressure, took one look at her, and realised, "Oh, my god, this is
so much more serious." – This is a really fast disease. 24 hours, you could have. 24 hours. – [Narrator] The quick action
of Lily's mum saved her life, but she spent eight
days in intensive care, and suffered permanent kidney damage. – I was doing dialysis,
three times a week, for five hours at a time, for nine months, or until we got the transplant. – [Narrator] Fortunately,
the 23 year old's sister, Grace, was able to donate
one of her kidneys. – And you were having
hallucinations, as well, weren't you? – [Grace] We just got really,
really lucky, I think. – This one was the worst, though. And, it turned out that
my kidney has given Lil the equivalent of two functioning kidneys. (chuckling) – [Narrator] Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterial infection, spread by bodily fluids from
coughing, sneezing and kissing. – There are very few other bacteria that can kill someone in
hours, but this is one of them. – [Narrator] Those most
at risk from the disease are children under five,
and people aged 15 to 24, smokers, anyone with a
suppressed immune system, or living in crowded accommodation. – Children under five are
at particularly high risk, and particularly, young
infants under the age of two. Also, teenagers are at
higher risk of this disease, and that's because it's
an age at which they are picking up carriage of this
organism quite rapidly. – [Narrator] There are five
common strains in Australia, and cases of meningococcal diseases have increased, over the last few years. – We had a surge in W,
leading to nearly 150 cases last year, and a surge in Y,
leading to 75 cases last year. – [Narrator] There are two steps to save lives from meningococcal disease: vaccination and early detection. Paralympian Eliza Ault-Connell
survived meningococcal B aged 16, but was left permanently scarred. – When you consider my case,
I was in ICU for 110 days, I had over 60 operations. The financial burden of
the disease is so great when we look at the
cost of a vaccination, it's safe and it's effective. I can only see prevention
as being better than cure. – [Narrator] There are
two vaccines available that cover the five main
strains in Australia. The first one is new,
and covers A, C, W and Y. It's free under the National
Immunisation Program for babies aged 12 months now, and teenagers from 14 to 19 years old will be able to get it from April 2019. Anyone else can pay for
it through their GP. – So, it's a good idea
for 20 to 24 year olds to think about getting vaccination through their GP and paying for it. – [Narrator] The second vaccine protects against meningococcal B. It's proven effective in babies, available privately from your GP. Due to the high number of
cases in South Australia, it's provided for eligible
children and young people there. – It's important to chat to your GP about what vaccines you might have had and what vaccines are available now so that you can protect yourself against meningococcal
disease in the future. – [Narrator] Lily was
vaccinated in 2005 with C strain. Since then, new strains of
meningococcal have emerged. In 2017, a vaccine covering four strains of the disease was introduced. Lily hadn't received the new vaccine. – People don't understand that there is more than one strain. That you're not
necessarily safe and vaccinated if you have that one
vaccination in school. I mean, I did, and look at me now. – [Narrator] The last defense
against meningococcal disease is antibiotics, but early
detection is essential. Meningococcal sepsis is
more common and more deadly. Symptoms include a fever, pain, pale skin, rapid breathing, nausea or vomiting, also, a rash that may start as a spot, then develop into
distinctive purple bruising. – When it progresses
into the blood to cause blood poisoning, you can get a high fever. You can get cold hands and feet, and then a rash which starts as pinpricks that becomes a purplish bruising rash especially on the hands and
feet, and even on the face. – [Narrator] Meningococcal
disease symptoms include a stiff or painful neck, sensitivity to light,
confusion or disorientation, irritability or agitation in babies. See your doctor, and if
a diagnosis is unclear, ask to come back in four hours. If the patient's condition deteriorates, call an ambulance. – I've never gotten properly sick before, and so it's this reality check of, you know, life is fragile. (echoing tone)

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