The Northern Cape health department issued a meningitis warning on Wednesday.
Spokeswoman Shelley Fielding said although no meningococcal meningitis or sepsis cases had been reported in the province for 2007 they wanted the public to be on the alert as winter was approaching. Meningococcal meningitis is mostly prevalent among children, and is mainly a seasonal condition with infection traditionally increasing during winter.
About 30 meningococcal meningitis cases were reported in the province last year, the first case in February 2006.
"Fifteen of the cases were laboratory confirmed and 10 of the 27 cases resulted in death," said Fielding.
Can turn into an epidemic
"All clinically suspected cases, both in public and private health institutions, must therefore be reported to the department of health," said Fielding.
Meningococcal meningitis is potentially fatal and can turn into an epidemic, so it is a notifiable illness in South Africa and should thus always be viewed as a medical emergency.
Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include headaches, stiff neck, sensitivity of eyes to light, fever, drowsiness or confusion, nausea or vomiting, skin rashes and fits.
These symptoms are not exclusive to meningococcal meningitis and do not exclude the presence of other diseases.
Fielding said patients with these symptoms should immediately visit the nearest hospital or clinic because the onset of the disease could be rapid.
It can also result in brain damage, loss of hearing and learning disability. – (Sapa)
Meningitis: 10 quick facts
Fast meningitis test OK’d