Four cases of meningitis, one death says dept

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Health has confirmed four more cases of meningitis and restated that only one person has died from the disease in the province.

The provincial department's meningitis response team on Thursday confirmed four more cases involving a student from the University of Pretoria who is currently at Muelnet Clinic, a person from the Methodist Church in Johannesburg who is being treated at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and two cases reported at Tembisa Hospital.

Gauteng Health MEC Brian Hlongwa has meanwhile restated that there was only one confirmed case of a learner dying of meningitis.

He said residents in Eldorado Park have been on high alert following incorrect reports that their community has been exposed to a meningitis case.

"Two children from Mondeor and Soweto died in recent weeks, but there are currently no confirmed cases of meningitis in Eldorado Park, the reported cases are unrelated and therefore do not present any cause for alarm," Mr Hlongwa during the launch of Mental Health Awareness campaign in Sebokeng on Wednesday.

He said the tests done on the child from Soweto showed that the child did not die of meningitis, but had been suffering from a headache for three years and was declared brain damaged.

The MEC added that the department was still waiting for the tests results for the most recent death.

"We don't just look at the symptoms like headache, fever and diarhoea and conclude that it's meningitis. Meningitis symptoms are almost the same as flu."

He said currently teachers were sending learners suffering from a headache home assuming it was meningitis.

Mr Hlongwa for a number of years the department have been responding effectively to the illness of meningitis and it approach was informed by years of international exposure to how they can best contain this illness.

"We have highly trained scientists in Gauteng and years of experience have enabled the development of an effective system that ensures that there is a speedy response to any case of meningitis.

"In 2006, we had 171 confirmed cases and 37 lost their lives, in 2007 there were 200 confirmed cases and lost 17 and in 2008, we have 53 cases and only lost nine.

"As from early this year, we've only lost one and there's no need to create unnecessary panic," Mr Hlongwa said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal also allayed fears that there is a meningitis outbreak in the province following the death of an 11-year-old girl on Monday, who passed away after experiencing flu-like symptoms.