Northland holiday-goers warned over Meningococcal W risk

Those heading to Northland on holiday have an extra risk to consider this year - the outbreak of the deadly Meningococcal W.

The region is still grappling with the effects, with the free vaccination programme still only half complete. Visitors aren't eligible so they're being told to take extra precautions.

Chantelle Higgins has resolved to take four-year-old Te Taiorangi to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Several pharmacies have been offering the service since the main centre clinics shut down a week ago, but uptake has been slow with nurses seeing only 10 to 20 people a day.

That's a large drop from the numbers seen since the programme began on December 5.

"We did so much in two weeks, 11,000 vaccinations, but that is only half the way," Northland Medical Officer of Health Dr Jose Ortega-Benito says.

"We need to get as many as 20,000 altogether."

Phase two of the programme will begin next year, but in the meantime immunisation co-ordinator Kellie Priest says people need to be vigilant to the symptoms as large numbers gather at beach camping spots.

Signs include fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck and headaches.

"If you're in a position to be able to get vaccinated before you come to Northland then absolutely go and do that and make contact with your GP," she says.

"Outside of that just be vigilant while you're here, make sure kids aren't sharing drink bottles, ice creams, that sort of things."

Since the vaccination programme began there have been no new cases reported and campers say they've been told how to keep themselves safe.

The number of Meningococcal W cases tend to dip in the summer months. Auckland Regional Public Health's Dr Shanika Perera says it's difficult to measure whether the Northland vaccination programme has yet had any flow-on effect on the number of cases elsewhere.

But cases of the disease have tripled nationwide this year, although nowhere has seen such a steep curve as Northland to be considered an outbreak.

The risk in Northland is now lower than the rest of the country - but the vaccination programme is still only half complete.