Gauteng Health confirms second meningitis death

Monday, March 16, 2009

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Health has confirmed that a second person has died of meningococcal meningitis in the province.

The department's response team said at the weekend that a three-year-old girl from the Thembasile informal settlement near Lenasia south, had died on Friday from meningococcal meningitis.

Parents, children attending the child's crSche and other close contacts have been given chemoprophylaxis as well as educational information to prevent being infected.

Last week, the department confirmed that only one person had died from the disease in the province, while four cases of meningitis were being treated.

A 15-year-old from Mondeor developed a headache and fever. Despite being treated at two clinics she did not get better and was referred to the Lenmed Hospital where she later died.

The other meningitis cases involved a student from the University of Pretoria, a foreign national who had been living outside the Methodist Church in Johannesburg and two cases reported at Tembisa Hospital.

The case involving a 9-year-old from Soweto who was treated at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital for recurring headaches was ruled out as meningitis as it was discovered she was brain damaged.

The 15-year-old girl from Eldorado Park, who died on 4 March, could not be confirmed as a meningitis death as her body was buried before tests could be completed.

The post mortem results of the schoolchild from the same area who died on 7 March have not yet been released.

Last week, the department said the sporadic emergence of meningitis was an annual occurrence and that there had been a steady decline of cases reported over the past few years.

It further assured the public that it had systems and structures in place which assisted in the tracing of contacts and ensuring that such contacts get appropriate treatment.

In children younger than two, the symptoms could include fever, irritability, lethargy (child being drowsy and unwell), refusal of food, convulsion and bulging fontanels.

Meningitis is an inflammation of tissues covering the brain, called meninges.

In adults and older children, some of the symptoms of meningitis are fever, severe headache, nausea and vomiting, Photophobia (when one cannot tolerate any light) and neck stiffness.

According to the department of health, people can prevent the spread of meningitis by avoiding contact with an infected person, his/her used cutlery and utensils, avoiding overcrowding, basic hygienic practices like washing hands before eating and practicing cough etiquette which is the covering of the mouth whilst coughing.