Phoebe O'Connell, from Brisbane - Photo Supplied Facebook
Phoebe O'Connell, from Brisbane - Photo Supplied Facebook

Student struck down by meningococcal

AN 18-year-old Brisbane university student is fighting for her life after contracting meningococcal disease.

Phoebe O'Connell, who graduated from All Hallows' School last year, was taken to the Mater Private Hospital last Wednesday after bouts of vomiting, diarrhoea and a severe headache.

News Queensland understands the University of Queensland student was sent home after being told she had a virus.

When her condition deteriorated she returned to the hospital and was subsequently diagnosed with meningococcal Y, one of five strains of the insidious infection, which occurs when bacteria invades the body after transferral typically through kissing, coughing or sneezing.

She is the 50th Queenslander this year to be afflicted with meningococcal.

Last month Brisbane interior stylist Dianne Leybourne, 53, was struck down with the B strain.

Queensland GPs have reported a spike in the number of patients requesting vaccinations following The Courier-Mail's coverage of the disease and an ongoing pro-vaccination campaign by Kirsten McGinty, whose 20-year-old daughter Zoe died of the W strain last September.

"If you're not vaccinated against all five strains, you're vulnerable," Mrs McGinty said.

 

A Facebook picture of Phoebe O'Connell
A Facebook picture of Phoebe O'Connell

 

 

 

 

A Facebook picture of Phoebe O'Connell
A Facebook picture of Phoebe O'Connell

The quad vaccine against A, C, W, Y costs $100 while the two-jab B procedure is upwards of $250.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has committed to funding the B vaccine once it is receives mandated approved by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

State governments, however, can act independently, as South Australia has done, with free B jabs for children under age four and, from February, for Year 10 and 11 students plus a catch-up program for 17 to 21-year olds.

The Queensland Government has repeatedly refused to fund B, and its ACWY vaccine for teens aged 15-19 is due to finish in December. Its school-based Year 10 program ends in 2021.

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has promised a targeted B immunisation program.

ACWY is federally funded for one-year-olds and will also be free for 14 to 19-year-olds from next April.

Meningococcal is on the rise. In Queensland in 2015 there were 28 cases, almost half of today's incidence.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, drowsiness, muscle pain, neck stiffness and a rash which may start as a spot or blister and develop into purple bruising.