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Elderly Marlborough man dies of meningitis

Published: 12:05PM Thursday September 13, 2012 Source: Fairfax

An elderly Marlborough man has died of meningitis, medical officer of health Jill Sherwood says.

The man died on Monday after being admitted to hospital with pneumococcal disease, which can lead to meningitis, Dr Sherwood said.

Pneumococcal bacteria was more commonly associated with pneumonia or milder conditions such as ear infections, she said.

The man's meningitis was not caused by meningococcal bacteria, which killed 12-year-old Amanda Crook-Barker last week and hospitalised two other young Wellingtonians last month, Dr Sherwood said.

Levin teenager Letitia Gallagher, 18, died at Palmerston North Hospital died of meningococcal disease on July 24.

There have been 14 reported cases of invasive pneumococcal disease in Nelson Marlborough this year, eight of which have been in Marlborough.

"The bacteria that was identified is one that is carried in the throat by up to 25 per cent of people in the community," Dr Sherwood said. "It's not one that causes outbreaks but more sporadic cases in the community."

People who had contact with the man didn't require antibiotics to stop them catching meningitis, Dr Sherwood said.

However, vaccinations against pneumococcal disease were recommended for people over 65.

"It's one of the bacterial infections we worry about when old people get the flu," she said.

Pneumococcus bacteria was one of the most common causes of meningitis in babies, Dr Sherwood said.

A vaccination programme for infants started in 2008, she said.

"Babies born since the start of 2008 can have the vaccination for free. It is also funded for certain high-risk groups like people with an underlying condition.

"Since we started vaccinations in young people, by reducing how much is out there, we have started to see a decrease in cases of older people."