Meningitis cases in Gauteng warrants no panic

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Health on Monday urged communities possibly affected by meningitis not to panic.

"The department is ... concerned about recent reports of meningitis suggesting that four young people, with two from Eldorado Park, passed away due to meningitis. This in turn could lead to unwarranted panic in schools and communities," the department said.

"Only two learners, one from Mondeor and another from Soweto passed away due to meningitis," the department confirmed.

The Minister of Health Barbara Hogan on Monday allayed fears that there might be an outbreak of meningitis in the province.

"We don't believe we have a meningitis outbreak," she said during the Social Cluster briefing on Monday.

The department said both communities were visited by officials from Gauteng Departments of Health, Education and the City of Johannesburg who made medication available, where necessary including providing information about meningitis.

The interventions assisted in returning stability to these areas and the areas continue to be monitored closely.

Specifically in the case of Eldorado Park, the department said, there are no confirmed cases of meningitis.

"One learner passed away in the past week and since she was buried in less than 24 hours (due to religious beliefs) it was not possible to conduct tests to confirm that meningitis could have been the cause of death."

Regarding the recent case of a learner admitted at Garden Clinic after she vomited and experienced diarrhoea, the department said the symptoms do not suggest meningitis.

"At present doctors are of the opinion that the symptoms are not suggestive of meningitis. Even so, further investigations will be conducted to confirm the cause of death," the department said.

The provincial department will be rolling out an educational programme to explain and answer questions on exactly what meningitis is, its symptoms and what a person needs to do when they suspect a case of meningitis.

"Also important to note is that in the event of suspected meningitis, only persons in close contact with the infected person is provided with medication in line with international standards," the department said.

The signs for meningitis are severe headache, fever, vomiting, irritability, 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.

The department has advised those who experience these symptoms or have been in contact with people with meningitis should immediately seek medical attention.

To prevent meningitis, the department has advised that one must avoid contact with any person suspected to have the illness, and people must also wash their hands after touching the affected person.