Learners given preventative meningitis medication

Friday, March 6, 2009

Pretoria - Around 50 Willow Crescent Secondary School learners have been given preventative medication after being in close contact with a 15-year-old girl who passed away from suspected bacterial meningitis.

The learner, a 15 year-old from Eldorado Park, died on Thursday after showing similar symptoms to that of meningitis. She had a headache and was vomiting.

Gauteng Health Department spokesperson Phumelele Kaunde, however, reiterated that the medicine was given to the learners as a precautionary measure.

"As a precautionary measure, learners who were close to the disease had been given preventative medication. The department is of the view that the different cases reported to us are unrelated and therefore do not present any cause for alarm," she said.

Ms Kaunda said it was not possible to conclusively confirm that the learner had meningitis as her body was buried before sunset, in accordance with her religious beliefs.

Fears of a meningitis outbreak started last month after the disease claimed the lives of two pupils, a 15-year-old learner from Mondeor High school and a seven-year-old boy from the Emaweni Primary School in Soweto who died from viral meningitis.

At the time, experts said the two cases were not linked as viral meningitis is not contagious and poses no threat to people in contact with the victim, which is different to bacterial meningitis which can be fatal.

Extensive education and support efforts have been put in place by the department to ensure that people are aware of the disease and how to react when showing symptoms of the disease.

The signs of meningitis are severe headache, fever, vomiting, irritable, reduced consciousness and rashes on the body. It is spread through drops of fluid from the mouth, throat or nose of someone who has the illness.

To prevent meningitis, one must avoid contact with any person with suspicion of the illness and must also wash hands after touching the affected person. Those infected are advised to immediately seek medical help.