Splendor in the Grass Festival: What you need to know about meningococcal disease

NSW Health has issued a public health alert for meningococcal disease after two cases were reported in people who attended this year’s Splendor in the Grass music festival in northern New South Wales.

Meningococcus is a contagious infection classified as a medical emergency by health authorities because it can be fatal within hours. The infection occurs when the meningococcal germ, which lies dormant in many people, invades the throat and travels into the bloodstream to cause poisoning.

A man in his 40s died after contracting the disease during the festival at North Byron Parklands from July 21-24. Another case has been identified by NSW Health but further details are unknown.

NCA NewsWire spoke to infectious disease specialist Dr. Robert Booy to answer your questions about fast-acting disease.

Could I have contracted the disease in Splendor?

According to Dr Booy, the proximity of festival-goers means the risk of spreading infection is increased.

“There are a number of instances where people have gone to either a festival or a football stadium and we’ve had two, three, up to four cases,” he said.

“It’s not common but it’s well recognized and it’s due to the close contact, crowds and people standing next to each other (while) singing, dancing and shouting.”

The University of Sydney professor noted that singing and shouting (activities required at a festival) release a lot of particles into the air, which people nearby will breathe in.

If someone is a carrier of the dormant meningococcal germ and releases it while singing, it can easily be passed on to nearby partygoers.

Dr Booy also warned that kissing is a surefire way to transmit infection.

How will I know if I have meningococcus?

NSW Health warns that symptoms can come on suddenly and quickly become very serious.

Dr Booy said people should be extremely vigilant if they think they have been exposed to the disease and urged festival attendees to watch closely for symptoms.

“People should watch out for the classic three or four symptoms: a headache, a fever, a rash, and the rash is little spots where the color doesn’t go away when pressed,” he said. declared.

“If they are not feeling well, they may notice that their hands and feet are very cold.”

The NSW Health guidance lists other symptoms including severe pain in the limbs, lethargy, sensitivity to bright lights and stiff neck.

Dr Booy said people have a “golden hour” of 12 to 36 hours to identify meningococcal symptoms and seek immediate treatment.

“The golden hours are when you deteriorate and your blood pressure drops and you go into shock,” said the former head of clinical research at the National Immunization Research and Monitoring Center at Westmead Children’s Hospital. .

“Meanwhile, if you are treated with fluids and antibiotics, you can save a life.”

I urged anyone who is not feeling well to see their doctor or go to the hospital if they are feeling very unwell.

What should I do if I think I have been exposed?

Dr Booy said the best thing to do is to keep an eye out for your friends and fellow attendees and watch for symptoms.

“If you’ve been to Splendor in the Grass, you have to watch out for your friend and your partner,” he said.

“Check that being groggy isn’t just a headache, being groggy isn’t just a hangover, it could actually be an infection.”

Will I die?

Up to one in ten meningococcal cases leads to death in Australia, according to the infectious disease expert.

“Most cases survive with a disability,” Dr Booy said.

NSW Health reports that 40% of meningococcal cases result in permanent disability, which can range from loss of a limb to learning difficulties.

How can I protect myself against meningococcus?

As we have heard repeatedly over the past two years, vaccination is the key to prevention.

Older readers will recall that there was an epidemic of meningococcal disease in Australia in the early 1990s before vaccination was introduced for all children in 2003.

The National Immunization Program now provides free meningococcal vaccines to babies 12 months old, teenagers 10 years old and people with certain medical conditions.

NSW Health reports there has been an increase of 15 meningococcal cases in the state this year after a two-year reprieve due to international border closures.

Dr Booy said the number of meningococcal cases is below pre-pandemic levels.

Originally published as What you need to know about meningococcal cases at Splendor in the Grass