Nurse Susan Krussell RN shows saline bags she uses when administering medication to patients with Fungal Meningitis due to contaminated steroid infections, at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan December 21, 2012. Reuters/Rebecca Cook

NSW health officials have warned people of a meningococcal outbreak as the peak season for the disease approaches and five cases were reported last week. This year, nearly four people have died and 40 cases have been reported in NSW this year. In 2015, 27 cases were reported and no one died.

Meningococcal disease symptoms include nausea, rash, cold hands and feet, limb pain and a dislike for bright light. All these symptoms may happen at once. On Thursday, Vicky Sheppeard, the organisation's director of communicable diseases, urged people to consult a doctor immediately if any of the symptoms appear.

Sheppeard said that meningococcal disease is most prevalent late winter and early spring and most cases occur in “infants, young children, teenagers and young adults although people of any age can be infected.”

She also warned that even those who have been vaccinated must be on the lookout as common vaccines take care of only some of the strands of the disease.

“Meningococcal disease can be very severe, and people infected with it can become extremely unwell within hours of the first symptoms appearing so it's important to be aware of the symptoms,” Sheppeard told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Children can be protected against the B and C strain of the meningococcal bug with a vaccine. As per Women’s Weekly, paediatrician Dr. Jenny Royle, who works with the immunisation service at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital, said that timely vaccination and keeping unwell children under constant watch are keys to fight this rare but life-threatening infection.

“The existence of that germ, type B, is why families need to know about meningococcal disease, and be vigilant about it ... The difficulty is that when the meningococcal germ becomes generalised in the blood stream, it has a very fast, sinister action, and that's why you can very quickly die before anyone has even known what you've got,” Royle said.