• A large scale immunisation campaign has kicked off in the NT after an outbreak of Meningococcal disease. (AAP)Source: AAP
The disease is a severe bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not diagnosed and treated in time.
Rangi Hirini

11 Oct 2017 - 4:00 PM  UPDATED 11 Oct 2017 - 4:02 PM

An outbreak of the deadly meningococcal disease in central Australia has Northern Territory health authorities concerned.

There have been 25 confirmed cases of the W strain of the disease; 19 of them are children under the age of 10.

It has also been confirmed all of those affected by the disease are Aboriginal people.

NT Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Acting Director Dr Charles Douglas, told NITV News the disease has been evolving over time.

“This strain of the meningococcal germ is slightly unusual. It has been targeting younger people. Clearly, it’s of concern making sure younger people are vaccinated,” he said.

The outbreak has hit the towns of Barkly, Katherine and Katherine West regions.

Symptoms include fever, headache, neck stiffness, an aversion to bright lights, a rash and joint pain. Those affected may also have vomiting and diarrhoea, and experience difficulty waking up. Infected infants may refuse food and drink and have a high pitched cry.

The NT Centre for Disease Control, government, and non-government health services are tackling this issue with a large scale immunisation campaign.

[This is because] “up to 20 per cent of people unknowingly carry the germ in their nose or throat, but it's not making them sick,” the Acting Director of CDC said.

“Our first response was to treat the contacts of patients and the communities they live in, and the uptake was very good on that.”

The campaign includes free vaccines for Indigenous people aged between 12 months and 19 years old living in remote communities, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine.

Dr Douglas said the rollout of vaccines will be ongoing until authorities manage to inoculate the target group, which he hopes will be within the next 2 months.

However, "the long-term strategy will be to get all terrirotian children vaccinated," he added.

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