A YOUNG child has died of meningococcal disease in a Hunter Hospital.
This is the first death and fourth case of meningococcal disease in the Hunter New England region this year.
Public Health Physician Dr David Durrheim said the community needed to be alert because Meningococcal disease may be very severe.
Up to 10 per cent of patients with invasive meningococcal disease in Australia die as a result of the infection.
The first symptoms of meningococcal disease may include pain in the legs, cold hands and feet and abnormal skin colour.
Later symptoms may include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights, nausea and vomiting, a rash of reddish-purple spots or bruises and drowsiness.
"Meningococcal infection does not spread easily,” Dr Durrheim said.
“It is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying it and close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.
“It does not appear to be spread through saliva or by sharing drinks, food or cigarettes.”
Dr Durrheim stressed that while meningococcal disease could be serious, in most cases, early detection and treatment resulted in a complete recovery.
There are no links between the child’s case and any previous cases.
Close contacts of the patient have been prescribed clearance antibiotics.