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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4482..


Please refer to attachment A - Background information for a summary of the public health response by ACT Health in the case of notified meningococcal disease (Pg. 2).

(3) The decision to issue a public notice is made by the Chief Health Officer or delegate and is determined on a case-by-case basis. If the Chief Health Officer or delegate determines that there is a broader public health risk, a press release may be issued. In all cases the immediate priority is to identify and manage close contacts.

In an outbreak situation, ACT Health would provide timely and adequate information to health care providers, affected communities, the media, and the general public.

(4) There has not been an instance where two notified cases of meningococcal disease have attended the same ACT primary school at one time. In July 2004, a two-year-old child was confirmed as having meningococcal disease. That child had an older sibling that attended an ACT primary school, who was subsequently diagnosed with meningococcal disease. Both of these cases were appropriately investigated and followed up according to well-established procedure.

(5) As outlined in question (3), the decision to provide specific advice to the public regarding a case of meningococcal disease is based on current guidelines. When a sporadic case of meningococcal disease occurs in a school student, the school principal may request information to either send to other parents, or to include in the school newsletter in order to raise awareness of the disease and to provide a telephone number so that parents are able to contact a public health officer to discuss their concerns. In the case mentioned above involving the two siblings, written information in the form of a fact sheet was provided for the principal to distribute to the broader school community on the first school day after the notification.

Attachment A

Background Information:

i) Communicability

The meningococcus bacteria can be found at the back of the throat or nose in about 10 per cent of the community at any given time (Communicable Diseases Network Australia, 2001:20). Although most people who 'carry' these bacteria remain well, they are able to spread the bacteria to others who may be susceptible to becoming very ill with meningococcal infection.

Humans are the only natural hosts for meningococci and the organism dies quickly outside the human host. Meningococcus bacteria can only be spread from person to person through direct contact with saliva or airborne droplets. Very close or prolonged contact with a carrier of the meningococcus is usually required for it to spread to other people (Communicable Diseases Network Australia, 2001:20).

ii) Defining Contacts

Settings

Information and chemoprophylaxis

Information only

Household of a case

All

N/A


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