Splendour in the Grass attenders told to monitor for symptoms of meningococcal disease after Sydney man’s death

<span>Photograph: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

Authorities have told people who attended Splendour in the Grass to be on alert for symptoms of meningococcal disease, after reporting that one man who attended the festival had since died of the disease.

Two cases of meningococcal have been confirmed in people who attended the Byron Bay music festival, including the man in his 40s from Sydney, who died this week.

New South Wales Health announced the man’s death on Friday, and issued a public health alert late on Friday night urging anyone who attended the event in the North Byron Parklands between 21 and 24 July to monitor themselves for symptoms.

“Although the disease is uncommon, it can be severe,” the authority warned.

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The festival said it had notified volunteers and staff of the health alert and was “working on communicating the information” to all attenders.

“Splendour in the Grass organisers are working closely with NSW Health authorities,” a spokesperson said.

In a statement, NSW Health said the man’s infection was identified after his death and notified to authorities on Thursday.

In an email to event volunteers, seen by Guardian Australia, organisers of the festival said: “The risk to other staff and festival patrons is low.”

“We don’t want to alarm anyone but we do have the responsibility to you as our staff to alert you,” the email said.

It urged anyone with symptoms of the disease – which include fever, sore joints and muscles, nausea and vomiting, headache, neck stiffness, discomfort looking at bright light, a rash, leg pain, and cold extremities – to immediately see a doctor or go to hospital.

“People who have had close contact with the two meningococcal cases will be offered antibiotics to prevent further spread,” the email said.

Bacteria can spread between people who have had extended close contact, while symptoms can take up to a week to develop.

Children may have less specific symptoms including irritability, difficulty walking, high-pitched crying and refusal to eat.

There have been 15 cases of the disease reported in NSW this year.

“While meningococcal disease is now uncommon thanks to vaccination, it can occur year round,” NSW Health said.

“We tend to see increases in late winter and early spring, with children under five and 15- to 25-year-olds at the greatest risk of contracting the disease.

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

While rare, up to one in 10 cases die from the disease and four in 10 result in permanent disabilities.

Most Australians are vaccinated for meningococcal as babies or children.

The executive director of health protection NSW, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said early intervention could be lifesaving.

“Onset of meningococcal disease symptoms can appear suddenly and become very serious very quickly,” he said. “If you suspect meningococcal disease, don’t wait for the rash – see a doctor immediately.”

There were three deaths from meningococcal last year. In July, a two-year-old from South Australia died after contracting the disease.