A suspected case of meningococcal disease in the Illawarra has turned out to be a false alarm.
Paramedics took a child to Wollongong Hospital's Emergency Department yesterday with symptoms similar to those of meningococcal, but tests revealed it not to be the potentially deadly disease.
Incidences of meningococcal disease have dropped significantly in recent years following the widespread introduction of a vaccine for type C meningococcal, one of the most common strains of the disease in Australia.
There have been fewer than 100 cases in NSW each year for the past four years.
While vaccines have been developed for the type B strain, also common in Australia, there are significant question marks over how effective they are and they are not in widespread use.
Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not recognised and treated in time.
Although the majority of victims will recover fully, approximately 10 per cent of those infected will die, and around 20 per cent will have permanent disabilities, ranging from learning difficulties, sight and hearing problems, to liver and kidney failure, scarring caused by skin grafts and loss of fingers, toes and limbs.
Winter and spring are the peak seasons for the disease.
Symptoms are non-specific but may include sudden onset of fever, headache, neck stiffness, joint pain, a rash of red-purple spots or bruises, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. Not all of the symptoms may be present at once.
Young children may have less specific symptoms including irritability, difficulty waking, high-pitched crying, and refusal to eat.
People with symptoms should see a doctor urgently, especially if there is persistent fever, irritability, drowsiness or lethargy, or a child is not feeding normally.