University of Canterbury 'devastated' by student's 'tragic' meningococcal death

The University of Canterbury.
The University of Canterbury. Photo credit: File

The University of Canterbury community is in mourning after the "tragic" death of a student from meningococcal disease.

A spokesperson for the university said they were "devastated" after the young female engineering student passed away earlier this week.

"We offer our deepest condolences to the student's family, friends and loved ones," they said.

"The student's flatmates, friends and whānau are being supported by UC's pastoral care team."

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can cause two very serious illnesses: meningitis (an infection of the membranes that cover the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). It can affect anyone - but it's more common in children under the age of five, teenagers, and young adults.

Canterbury DHB medical officer of health, Dr Ramon Pink, has offered his condolences to the young woman's family.

"Meningococcal disease is a fast-moving illness, which has symptoms similar to a number of other illnesses such as influenza," he said.

"The Community and Public Health team has identified those contacts who require antibiotics, to prevent them developing meningococcal disease.

"Meningococcal disease is spread by close contact. There is no risk to the public and I would like to reassure the public that being in the same room as someone with meningococcal disease does not mean you will catch it."

Common symptoms of meningococcal disease include:

  • A fever (high temperature), although their hands and feet may feel cold
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle and joint aches and pains.
  • A red or purple rash is common, but it doesn't always occur
  • One or two spots can appear anywhere on the body then many more appear looking like rash or bruises

If you're concerned that someone in your family might have meningococcal disease, call your doctor straight away or dial 111.