Health authorities in the Maldives have initiated contact tracing following the detection of a case of the life-threatening Meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) started the contact tracing efforts on Tuesday after the patient’s passing. The deceased, identified as the renowned Maldivian football star Mohamed Arif, aged 38, succumbed to Meningococcal disease while undergoing treatment at ADK Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) shortly after returning from Saudi Arabia, where he had recently undertaken the Hajj pilgrimage.

While the HPA has not officially confirmed the cause of Arif’s death, the agency has disclosed that treatment has been initiated for individuals who had close contact with the patient.

“With the identification of an instance of invasive Meningococcal disease, we have initiated the collection of essential information, contact tracing, sharing details about the disease with the contacts, and administering Prophylactic medication,” stated HPA.

The HPA has also called on returning Hajj pilgrims who have not completed the pre-Hajj vaccination regimen or had travelled to Saudi Arabia within 14 days of vaccination to report to health authorities promptly. The agency highlighted the importance of receiving the Meningitis vaccine at least two weeks before embarking on the Hajj pilgrimage to ensure adequate protection against the disease.

Meningococcal disease, caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, typically begins with an infection of the nose and throat mucous membranes, often without noticeable symptoms. The onset of illness usually occurs within four days of exposure but can manifest up to 10 days later.

Common symptoms include sudden fever, headache, stiff neck, and a distinctive red rash. In severe instances, patients may experience seizures and diminished alertness, leading to coma.