Public health alert issued for meningococcal disease after death of Splendour In The Grass attendee

Two cases of the contagious disease were found in attendees at the festival

A public health alert has been issued for meningococcal disease after the death of a man who attended Splendour In The Grass, one of two cases in attendees at the Byron Bay festival last month.

In a statement dated August 5, NSW Health said it had been notified of two cases of the contagious disease among attendees of the festival, and urged other punters to be alert to its symptoms and contact a doctor immediately should they appear.

“Sadly, as reported earlier today, one of these cases was a man in his 40s from Sydney who died with the disease,” the statement read. “NSW Health expresses its sincere condolences to his loved ones.”

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Meningococcal disease can kill within hours, says Healthdirect, and is termed a medical emergency. Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, a headache, neck stiffness and a rash of purple-red spots or bruises that doesn’t turn skin-coloured when pressed with a finger or a side of the glass. “Do not wait for the purple rash to appear as that is a late stage of the disease,” says Healthdirect.

So far, 15 cases of the disease have been reported in New South Wales this year. NSW Health says it “tend[s] to see increases in late winter and early spring”, and that children under five years and those in the 15- to 25-year-old bracket are at the greatest risk of contracting it.

Meningococcal disease is vaccine-preventable, with the meningococcal ACWY (Men ACWY) vaccine available for free under the National Immunisation Program to babies at 12 months, adolescents, and people of all ages with certain medical conditions.

“Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and community from the harmful effects of meningococcal disease,” states the health alert.

In a statement sent to NME August 6, a representative for Splendour In The Grass said organisers “have been working closely with NSW Health authorities and have already informed those who worked at the event and all volunteers”.

“Attendees who purchased tickets have been emailed the NSW Health announcement. NSW Health has urged all attendees to be alert for the symptoms and contact a doctor immediately should they present.” Those seeking more information should visit NSW Health, the festival added.

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Splendour In The Grass, which returned July 22 to 24 after years of non-activity and multiple postponements due to the pandemic, had its first day of mainstage performances on Friday – headlined by Gorillaz – cancelled due to “interest in patron safety” over weather conditions.

Ticketholders will get “proportionate refunds” for Friday, organisers have said. The festival also reportedly distributed “goodwill payments” to acts who had sets cancelled.

On top of the Friday cancellation, the festival endured several disruptions including long waits to enter and leave the Northern Byron Parklands site, staff shortages that led to hourslong waits for buses on day two of the festival, campsite flooding due to rainfall and more.

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