School on high alert as pupil dies of meningitis

2009-03-11 00:00

A Durban school is on high alert after a pupil died of meningitis. Another was hospitalised after showing symptoms of the potentially fatal illness.

Vuyolwethu Bam, a grade 6 pupil at Dawnridge Primary, died of bacterial meningitis in Chatsmed Hospital on Friday. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane covering the brain or spinal cord.

School principal Shan Pillay said Vuyolwethu’s mother told him about her daughter’s death on Monday.

The girl experienced severe headaches, cramping and vomiting.

Pillay said 12 pupils and a teacher who were in direct contact with Vuyolwethu were given medication. Those under 12 years old were vaccinated.

“We sent letters to parents informing them of Vuyo’s death and the symptoms to look for. We did not want to create panic,” he said.

Teachers have also been instructed to monitor their pupils and conduct follow-ups on their absenteeism.

The deputy head of the eThekwini Municipality’s department of clinical services and communicable diseases, Dr Ayo Olowolagba, confirmed the case and said his department has taken preventive measures to ensure that other children at the school are not affected.

He said that meningococcal, or bacterial, meningitis is life-threatening and advised parents to seek medical help if children experience body pains, vomiting, headaches, stiff necks and blurred vision.

“Go straight to the clinic and you will receive antibiotics,” he said.

Olowolagba said six cases have been reported this year and that Vuyolwethu is the only fatality.

Meanwhile, Vuyolwethu’s friend, Pamela Ntleki, has complained to teachers about neck pains and a loss of appetite.

Pamela’s mother, Penelope Thotsholo, told The Witness that her daughter had undergone a lumbar puncture to test for meningitis, which Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said was negative.

Thotsholo said Pamela’s friends have now started suffering from similar conditions.

Mbangwa said the cases cannot be called an outbreak.

A team has been dispatched to the school to provide health education on the disease.

Vuyolwethu was buried in the Eastern Cape at the weekend.

Symptoms of meningitis:

The signs for meningitis are severe headaches, 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.

“Those who experience these symptoms or have been in contact with people with meningitis should immediately seek medical attention,” a health expert cautioned.

To prevent meningitis spreading, one must avoid contact with any person with suspicion of the illness, and must also wash hands after touching the affected person.

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