Number of infants who contracted meningococcal disease up 82 percent on the previous year - research

There's been an 82 percent increase in the number of New Zealand infants under one-year-old who contracted the meningococcal disease compared to the previous year, new research shows.

It's prompted warnings from a vaccinologist who is urging people to ensure they are protected against meningococcal disease.

Auckland University Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris says it's important people check when they were last vaccinated.

"Unless you've been recently vaccinated against meningococcal disease you're unlikely to be protected," she told Newshub.

"The protection lasts for perhaps five to 10 years, so there are two periods when you're at more risk; one is when you're younger - and the other one is during adolescence and young adulthood."

Meningococcal B is second-most frequent in teenagers, the research found, only after babies and children under five-years-old.

"It's a very weird disease but - on the other hand - it's destructive," Petousis-Harris said.

"There are good vaccines around and available but they're not automatically given on the immunisation schedule so there are vaccinations that you need to purchase.

"In order to avoid meningococcal disease, it's important to have been relatively recently vaccinated."

There's been a rise in cases in New Zealand in the past year overall - up 16 percent.

"It is important that parents talk with their health care professional about all of the vaccines available and make a fully informed decision about vaccinating their child," Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa NZ spokesperson Andrea Brady.

One Dose Of Meningococcal Vaccine In Vials With Syringe Over Turquoise Background
Photo credit: Getty

She said it's also important people know the symptoms associated with meningococcal. 

More information about the disease can be found on the Ministry of Health website