Meningoccocal outbreak sees Wimmera doctors free vaccines

WIMMERA doctors have urged gay and bisexual men in the region to get vaccinated against meningococcal. 

The Grampians region had the highest rate of meningococcal cases in the state in 2017.

However, an outbreak of meningococcal in gay and bisexual men has seen a free vaccine against four strains of the disease rolled out across the state.

Wimmera Health Care Group is among the sites now offering the vaccine, which is free until June 30.

General practitioners are also able to deliver the vaccine. 

The health alert was issued last month after eight cases of the disease were confirmed in same-sex attracted men from Melbourne.  

Wimmera Health Care Group clinical services director Don McRae said while meningococcal was a rare disease, it was very serious.

“It is a funny disease in that some people get it only with flu-like symptoms,” he said.

“Other groups, like little babies, can get cold-like symptoms, but it progresses rapidly and could lead to death.”

Department of Health data shows seven people in the Grampians region contracted the disease last year, which was a rate of 3.1 cases per 100,000 people.

The Gippsland region had the second highest rate with 2.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Across the state, 87 cases were detected in the past year. Mr McRae said the outbreak of the disease in men who had had sex with other men was very concerning.

He encouraged anyone in the high risk category should get vaccinated.

“If we have anyone in that category come through the doors, we will offer them the vaccine – we won’t wait for them to ask,” he said.

“Anyone in this high risk group, or anyone concerned about meningococcal in general, should speak to their doctor.”

Clusters of meningococcal have previously been detected in gay communities overseas.

The department has also recommended vaccinations to children and travellers attending mass gatherings and sites of overseas epidemics.