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Young Ballarat woman Emma-Kate McGrath dies suddenly from meningococcal disease

Tributes are flowing in for 19-year-old university student Emma-Kate McGrath, who died suddenly from meningococcal disease on Wednesday night.

The Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed the Ballarat woman died from invasive meningococcal disease, and is now identifying the woman's friends and relations who have come in close contact to provide antibiotics.

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Emma-Kate McGrath

Emma-Kate McGrath Photo: Facebook

A family member, who did not wish to be identified, said the young woman, who was studying at Australian Catholic University's Ballarat campus, was "one of the kindest souls to walk this earth and didn't deserve this."

Loreto College principal Judith Potter described her former student as "a wonderful role-model for her peers" in a letter sent out to the school's parents.

"In the words of one of her teachers, 'she was full of life and her enthusiasm at time seemed to just bubble over and fill the room'."

The school released a statement on Friday, saying the school was in mourning.

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"She was a most vibrant, compassionate and genuine young woman who strived to be the best she could in all areas of her life."

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said further testing was needed to confirm the type of meningococcal infection.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the family at this tragic time and are respecting their privacy," he said.

"The department is working closely with Ballarat Base Hospital, and is undertaking all necessary public health actions, which includes identifying close contacts and providing clearance antibiotics.

"We are also working with the Australian Catholic University and local schools to provide information to students and families. The risk to other students is very low."

Victoria has had 23 confirmed cases of invasive meningococcal disease so far this year.

Last November, Marcellin College VCE student Matthew Wilkins was struck down by the deadly disease shortly after he finished his final exams.

The state government's Better Health Channel said meningococcal infection can develop very quickly.

"Meningococcal bacteria are only passed from person to person by regular close, prolonged household or intimate contact with infected secretions from the back of the nose and throat."

Symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease in adults can include a fever, headaches, loss of appetite and neck stiffness.

Ballarat Courier with Fairfax Media

Original Article

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