No meningitis outbreak in Durban, says council

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Durban - The eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality has assured the residents of Durban that there is no outbreak of meningitis in the city.

Concerns had been raised followed the death of a child from Welbedatch due to bacterial meningitis.

Head of Health Communicable Diseases Division, Dr Ayo Olowolagba said on Tuesday that they had investigated the death of the learner and had found no reason to conclude there was an outbreak of meningitis.

"It is only in areas close to the equator that this disease is a normal calamity, this is because of various factors, among which are temperature, the types of bacteria in the air and many others," Dr Olowolagba said.

He said the four cases of meningitis that had been reported in KwaZulu-Natal this year and had resulted in death, were not connected.

"Two types of the meningitis disease have been identified, viral and bacterial meningitis, the latter is the most serious, which if not attended to timeously can be fatal.

"Meningitis is always a medical emergency, however, viral meningitis is almost always milder and more like flu, while bacterial meningitis is deadly and medical attention should be sought as soon as symptoms are identified," he explained.

Symptoms of meningitis include headaches, fever, drowsiness or confusion, fits, skin rash, nausea or vomiting, eyes sensitive to light and stiffness of the neck.

Dr Olowolagba warned that if untreated, bacterial meningitis could result in a rapid death.

He said patients with a poor state of health were most likely to be hardest hit by the infection, such as children, pregnant women and HIV positive patients.

His department has produced a brochure with detailed information on how the disease can be identified and responded to. It is being handed out to residents and can be found at city health offices at all health facilities.

Ten family members of the late Welbedatch child, as well as her classmates and other school friends had been given preventative medication to keep them out of danger.

On Monday, the Gauteng Department of Health confirmed that a second person had died of meningococcal meningitis in the province. A three-year-old girl from the Thembasile informal settlement near Lenasia south, had died on Friday from meningococcal meningitis.