WHO lends support

THE World Health Organization (WHO) will continue to support the Health Ministry in addressing the recent outbreak of the meningococcal disease in the country.

According to WHO, it is providing technical assistance through the ministry’s meningococcal disease taskforce and has facilitated the offshore reference laboratory testing of case samples.

Responding to queries from this newspaper, WHO said it was supporting the production of information materials to build the broader community awareness about the disease and provide information on what actions the community needed to take to protect themselves.

WHO said Fiji had seen an increase in cases of meningococcal disease which was very concerning and required an immediate response.

“Meningococcal disease is a life-threatening disease and should be viewed as both a medical and public health emergency,” WHO said.

The organisation said meningococcal disease was associated with high fatality (up to 50 per cent when untreated) often within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms.

However, when the disease is diagnosed and treated early, case fatality could be lowered to 8 per cent to 15 per cent of patients with the disease, WHO said.

“Early antibiotic treatment is the most important measure to save lives and reduce complications. That is why early presentation to a doctor is so important when a person develops the symptoms of meningococcal disease and pre-hospital treatment with antibiotics can be lifesaving.”

If untreated, WHO said meningococcal meningitis was fatal in 50 per cent of cases and may result in brain damage, hearing loss or disability in 10 to 20 per cent of survivors.

“There is an increased risk of additional meningococcal disease for people who live in the same house or are in close contact with people who get meningococcal disease. This is why it is critical that close contacts receive urgent medical advice and preventive treatment.”

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