A HUNTER man is in a serious but stable condition in hospital after being diagnosed with a meningococcal infection.
Hunter New England Health authorities have confirmed the case, but will only say a man has been admitted to an intensive care unit somewhere in the region.
Family and close contacts have been prescribed antibiotics to kill bacteria that may have caused the infection.
Public health physician David Durheim said the case was the sixth time meningococcal disease had been diagnosed in the Hunter New England region this year.
There were 15 confirmed cases in 2011 and 14 cases in both 2010 and 2009.
Dr Durheim urged anyone who suspected meningococcal disease to seek immediate medical attention.
“Meningococcal disease may be very severe and the community needs to be on the alert for its symptoms,’’ he said.
Initial symptoms may include leg pain, cold hands and feet, and abnormal skin colour.
More advanced signs of the disease include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to bright lights, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and a rash of reddish purple spots or bruises.
Babies with the infection can be irritable, not feed properly and have an abnormal cry.
"Meningococcal infection does not spread easily,’’ Dr Durheim said.
‘‘It is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying it and close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on.
‘‘It does not appear to be spread through saliva or by sharing drinks, food or cigarettes.’’
Dr Durheim said that while meningococcal disease could be serious, up to 10 per cent of invasive cases in Australia were fatal, early detection and treatment usually resulted in a complete recovery.