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Australian media raises alarm over meningitis

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 14 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:604
  1. Melissa Sweet, freelance journalist specialising in health and medicine (
  1. in Australia

    Awareness campaign linked to launch of new vaccine

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    In recent months, the Australian media have bombarded their audiences with distressing stories and images of babies and young children who have died or been disfigured by meningococcal disease. Not surprisingly, this has alarmed parents, judging by reports from besieged hospital casualty departments, doctors' surgeries, and health department hotlines. Even some of the groups working to raise awareness of the disease believe that it has been overhyped. “People are panic stricken,” says Elizabeth Watling, general manager of theMeningitis Foundation, an Australian affiliate of the UK-based Meningitis Trust.

    Many media reports have highlighted the increasing incidence of meningococcal disease—in 1995 about two cases were reported for every 100 000 people, compared with 3.5 cases per 100 000 in 2001. But they have often failed to note that the disease remains relatively rare in Australia, which, unlike some other countries, has not had an epidemic for many years. The endemic disease is, according to …

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