Meningitis kills vaccinated girl

The Western Mail

Jan 11 2001

A two-year-old girl has died from meningitis despite being vaccinated against the C strain of the disease.

Now meningitis charities and health officials are warning parents to be vigilant for the signs of the disease despite the success of the national immunisation programme.

The girl, who has not been identified, died early yesterday at Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr.

Health officials are expected to reveal this afternoon which strain of the disease caused her death.

Doctors say it is most likely that she died from the more prevalent B strain but do not rule out the possibility that it was group C, the strain normally responsible for outbreaks.

Liz Gibbs-Murray, from Meningitis Cymru, said yesterday there was a growing concern among the medical profession and meningitis charities after last week's Department of Health announcement that the vaccination programme had 'virtually eradicated' group C meningitis.

She said parents could mistakenly believe their children were immunised against meningitis but the latest Welsh case proved that vaccination against the C strain - the symptoms of which could be mis-taken for flu - did not mean they were fully protected.

'We are still years away from a vaccine for strain B. One of the things we are worried about is the risk that parents will become complacent about the risk of meningitis. Strain B has always been more prevalent and accounted for 60 per cent of cases, with C making up the rest before the vaccine programme.

'There is a risk that parents will think their child has been vaccinated against meningitis when in fact they are protected against just one strain of a disease that has more than 10 variations.'

Dr Marion Lyons, consultant in communicable disease control for Bro Taf Health Authority, said that work looking at the effectiveness of the meningitis C vaccine was continuing but studies of teenagers vaccinated had shown it to be 95pc effective.

'Taking into account the fact that the girl had been vaccinated, the most likely scenario is that this was a group B case,' she said.

Merthyr Tydfil had a 95pc uptake of the meningitis C vaccine and Dr Lyons said she did not expect there to be an outbreak of the disease.

She said there were 100 cases of meningitis in the Bro Taf Health Authority area last year but deaths like that of the girl were rare.

Symptoms to look out for include fever, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, back and joint pain, severe headache, sensitivity to light and sometimes a rash of tiny purple bruises that do not fade when they are pressed.

In children symptoms of meningitis and meningococcal disease include a high temperature, vomiting, a blotchy complexion, a high moaning cry and floppiness.

The Meningitis Research Foundation runs a 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 3344. Advice is also available from Meningitis Cymru on 01656 646414.