09 March 2009

"Don't panic about meningitis"

The Gauteng department of health has warned communities possibly affected by meningitis not to panic.

The Gauteng department of health has warned 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," said Gauteng health spokesman JP Louw.

On Thursday, a 15-year-old student at the Willow Crescent Secondary School died of what was suspected to be meningitis.

The body of the student, a girl, was not tested for meningitis as she was buried within 24 hours of her death - in accordance with her family's religious beliefs.

A second girl, aged nine, died over the weekend, sparking concerns that she had also died of meningitis.

But Louw said initial tests had indicated the nine-year-old did not die of meningitis. He added, however, that the health department would continue to investigate her death.

Two confirmed deaths
Louw said there had only been two confirmed deaths due to meningitis - a 15-year-old girl from Mondeor High School died on February 15 and a seven-year-old boy from Emaweni Primary School died on February 24.

The Congress of the People criticised the health department's response in a statement on Monday. "The panic-stricken community has been left without proper government leadership on treatment and education. This has led to many parents temporarily withdrawing their children from school," said Cope spokesman Sipho Ngwema in the statement.

"Cope has regrettably received reports that the situation is chaotic at the schools."

Louw said he did not know whether parents were keeping their children out of schools. "Naturally, I would expect any parent to be worried but I can't give you any scientific comment on the ground," he said.

Principal Vangelia Nicolaou of Mondeor High School, where the first case of meningitis was reported a few weeks ago, said that in the short term, more children had been absent.

"Once the child died, for a couple of days there was a high rate of absenteeism," said Nicolaou. "But everything is back to normal now."

Officials at Willow Crescent Secondary School could not be reached. – (Sapa)

Read more:
Meningitis scare at Jo'burg school



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