The death of a toddler from meningococcal disease in Townsville has prompted a warning to react quickly to symptoms of the deadly illness.

Public health authorities say the death of a toddler in north Queensland from meningococcal disease highlights the danger the illness poses.

A two-year-old girl from Dysart died on Friday after being airlifted to Townsville Hospital with symptoms of the disease.

Meningococcal is a bacterial disease spread via droplets from the nose or throat during coughing and sneezing.

It can cause fever, diarrhoea and convulsions, and complications can result in death.

North Queensland public health physician Dr Steven Donohue said the illness can be treated with antibiotics but severe cases can quickly turn deadly without prompt medical attention.

Queensland Health protocol offers immunisation for toddlers at 12 months of age for one strain of the disease but Dr Donohue said that just because a child has been vaccinated doesn’t completely remove the risk of infection.

“It’s important to vaccinate children but it’s also important if there are signs of rapid and severe infection that those people are seen as quickly as possible by doctors,” Dr Donohue told AAP.

“You don’t muck around if you’ve contacted meningococcal. You get those symptoms, you have to go to a hospital day or night, and tell them you’ve been in contact with a meningococcal.”

It’s unknown if the girl in this case had been vaccinated though Dr Donohue said the patient did not attend daycare and there was little risk of further cases.

“The probability of secondary cases of meningococcal is actually very low. It’s probably 100 to one against having a second case in any one case,” he said.

“The risk of any one case to the general community is minimal. Really we’re looking at close household contacts.”


In babies:

- fever, hands and feet may also feel cold

- refusing feeds or vomiting

- high pitched moaning cry or whimpering

- dislike of being handled, fretful

- rash of red-purple spots or bruises

- blank and staring expression

- bulging fontanelle

- difficult to wake, lethargic

- pale blotchy complexion

In older children and adults:

- vomiting

- fever

- headache

- stiff neck

- dislike of bright lights

- drowsiness

- joint pain

- rash of red-purple spots or bruises

(Source: Queensland Health)