A deadly strain of meningococcal is sweeping across Australia with one state in particular more vulnerable to the disease.
South Australia is the only state in the country without a free vaccination for the W strain – where cases have doubled in the past two years.
The state government is planning to introduce a state-wide free vaccine for the B strain for families which health chiefs say is currently threatening more people in the state.
A deadly strain of meningococcal is sweeping across Australia with one state in particular more vulnerable to the disease
The state government is planning to introduce a state-wide free vaccine for the B strain for families but there is no public vaccination program – except for emergencies – for the W strain
But the W strain, which is the most aggressive and fastest growing strain in the country, is affecting more and more people every year, the Sunday Mail reports.
It has a higher fatality rate in SA than the other strains of meningococcal – A, B, C and Y.
There were 11 people in South Australia who contracted the W strain last year.
There have already been eight meningococcal cases in SA in 2018 – with six of those confirmed to be the B strain, one Y strain and another undetermined.
The W strain, which is the most aggressive and fastest growing strain in the country, is affecting more and more people every year
Professor Paddy Phillips, the chief medical officer for SA Health, says the government will respond to W strain outbreaks with ‘localised vaccination programs’.
A vaccine to protect against the B and W strains – the most dominant forms of meningococcal – currently costs around $1,000 per person.
All the states and territories in Australia, apart from SA, has a public vaccination program for babies and residents up to 19-year-olds against four of the main strains of the disease.
John Bowyer, a patient who fought of the W strain, is calling on the federal government and state governments around the country to work on providing a free vaccine for all the main strains.
‘It is a nasty strain, a killer strain,’ he told the Sunday Mail.
Professor Paddy Phillips, the chief medical officer for SA Health, says the government will respond to W strain outbreaks with ‘localised vaccination programs’
‘Having this ad hoc approach between states and territories is costing lives and leaves a window of opportunity for these virulent strains to not only cause death but also lifelong injuries.’
An outbreak of the W strain across the Northern Territory and Western Australia in October threatened to break into SA.
Meningococcal Australia, a group which is working to raise awareness about the perils of the disease, is warning it is only a matter of time until the W strain becomes more widespread in South Australia.
There were 140 cases of the W strain in 2014 compared to just 17 only three years earlier.
This week, the new Liberal government in SA said it would be forming a task force to investigate how to bring about a public vaccination program for meningococcal B.
Peter Malinauskas, the Labor leader in SA, said his party had a plan to introduce vaccines for free from June for children under two-years old
But this position has been criticised by the Labor opposition which said it had a plan to introduce vaccines for free from June for children under two-years-old.
Peter Malinauskas said: ‘We need the Liberals to do the right thing and make this lifesaving vaccine free for all South Australian children under two immediately.
‘The announcement they will only investigate a meningococcal vaccination program by setting up a committee is extremely disappointing.’
Paul Goodfellow lost part of his finger when he contracted the B strain of the disease.
He joined the support for a new vaccination. The father-of-three told Ten News: ‘It’s a disease you don’t have time to much around with.’