A man from the New South Wales Hunter Valley has died from meningococcal disease. Within three years, it has been the first death, and the third confirmed case, in the Hunter-New England region this year.

Antibiotics have been given to the man's family and friends, and health officials are confident that the case is not related to the others.

Dr David Durrheim, the public health physician said that it is a tragic reminder the disease is fatal for adults as well as young children.

We see most of our invasive meningococcal cases are in younger children and teens but as this case proves sadly it can occur in all ages, said Dr Durrheim.

He advised people to be on alert, especially during the highest risk periods of the winter and early spring.

Meningococcal infection does not spread easily. 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, said Dr Durrheim.

In Australia, the two main strains of meningococcal disease are the B and C strains. Currently, there is a vaccine effective against the less common meningococcal C strain, but no Australian vaccine for the B strain of the disease.