A young woman has died of meningococcal disease in New South Wales after attending a music festival in the ACT.

The woman, aged in her late teens, is the third person to die of the disease in NSW this year.

9News has confirmed the woman attended the Spilt Milk festival at Exhibition Park in Canberra on November 26, but it is not known if that is where she contracted the disease.

Meningococcal B is now the dominant strain of the disease.
File image: A health warning has been issued after a young woman died of meningococcal disease. (Supplied)

Days after the festival, ACT Health issued an alert for attendees after they discovered a person in Canberra Hospital with the virus attended the festival.

Anyone who attended the event should be aware of the symptoms and act immediately if they appear.

There have been 29 cases overall so far in 2022.

While meningococcal disease is now uncommon thanks to vaccination, it can occur year-round.

NSW Health said cases tended to increase in late winter and early spring, with a slight surge in recent weeks.

People who attended the Spilt Milk festival in Canberra last weekend have been asked to monitor for symptoms of meningococcal.
People who attended the Spilt Milk festival in Canberra last weekend have been asked to monitor for symptoms of meningococcal. (Spilt Milk Festival)

Children are routinely vaccinated with the meningococcal ACWY vaccine at 12 months, and again as teenagers, as part of the free National Immunisation Program.

Babies can receive the meningococcal B vaccine, the most dominant strain, from six weeks of age. It is free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and in South Australia.

People in the rest of the country can receive the vaccine for themselves or their babies at a cost of roughly $110 per injection with three doses required.

Children under five and 15- to 25-year-olds are at the greatest risk of contracting the disease.

Health Protection NSW executive director Dr Jeremy McAnulty said early intervention can be lifesaving.

“Meningococcal disease symptoms can appear suddenly and become very serious very quickly,” McAnulty said.

“I urge everyone not to discount symptoms when they appear or assume it may be just a mild infection.

“If you suspect meningococcal disease, don’t wait for the rash – see a doctor immediately.”

The subvariants and mutations of COVID-19

Meningococcal disease can be fatal within hours if left untreated.

Knowing the symptoms could help prevent premature death or life-long disability.

  • Severe, unexplained limb pain
  • Difficulty waking up
  • High-pitched crying in babies
  • Severe headache
  • Upset by bright lights
  • Stiff neck
  • Red-purple rash which doesn’t disappear when pressed with a glass

“While it is a well-known symptom of meningococcal disease, the rash does not always occur, or may present late in the illness,” McAnulty said.

“If symptoms rapidly worsen, or if your child is very unwell, call Triple Zero (000) or go straight to your nearest emergency department.”

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