Thursday 18 October 2018

Meningitis outbreak: Probe as one child (6) dies and a second is left seriously ill

'The town is in shock' - Young girl dies from meningitis, another critically ill

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Navan
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Navan
The HSE is investigating the matter

Elaine Keogh, Amy Molloy and Eilish O'Regan

A PUBLIC health investigation is under way into a meningitis outbreak that has claimed the life of a six-year-old girl and left another girl seriously ill.

The little girl who passed away was last night named locally as Kayla Carey, a senior infants pupil at Scoil Mhuire in Navan, Co Meath. The second girl remained seriously ill in hospital last night.

It's understood the two children attended the same school and were hospitalised on Thursday. The HSE confirmed the cases were reported to the Department of Public Health, HSE North East.

Schoolchildren at Scoil Mhuire were sent home yesterday as a precaution and psychologists from the National Educational Psychological Service will be attending to provide support to teachers and parents.

Dr Paul Kavanagh, director of public health medicine, HSE North East, said that they were aware of the "anxiety" that had been caused in the locality.

Scoil Mhuire principal Colm Devlin said: "We learned this morning of the death of Kayla Carey, a pupil here. This is a terrible tragedy for her family, our school and the whole community. We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. Our sympathy and thoughts are with Kayla’s family and friends.

"Kayla is a senior infant pupil here and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her."

He added the school has implemented its Critical Incident Management Plan.

"Psychologists from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) will be with us supporting and advising the teachers in their efforts to assist our students at this time.

"We have been grateful for the support of the HSE in providing medical information for parents of classmates of Kayla. The teachers will help students to deal with the tragic event.

"The school will be open to parents, to support them and to offer them advice and guidance."

Fianna Fáil councillor Tommy Reilly told Independent.ie that the community is devastated.

"It's a dreadful situation. We are all devastated for the family. It has had a massive effect on the school and they have arranged counselling for the kids," he said.

"The family are very well-known in the area. It's devastating, and the other girl is critically ill. The town is in shock. For this to happen to two little girls, it's horrific. My sympathy goes out to the principal as well."

Navan Cllr Wayne Forde said: "The whole town is numb with devestation. We're all in deep shock and praying that the other pulls through."

A text was sent to all parents today advising them to collect their children from the school and have them checked out by a GP.

"Parents, we have received the sad news that a pupil in senior infants passed away in the night from suspected meningitis. We will update you when further medical advice is received," the text said.

The HSE says it is investigating the matter.

A spokesperson said: “The cases were reported to the Department of Public Health, HSE North East earlier today, March 9th, and concern two children under 12 who were hospitalised, one of whom subsequently died.

"Spread of meningococcal meningitis from person to person is very unusual, especially outside of close household contact."

Its consultants in Public Health Medicine from the HSE Health Protection Team are currently “with the parents, guardians and teachers at the primary school where both pupils were in attendance, and are liaising with clinical staff regarding care of the families of the children to ensure appropriate public health measures are in place.”  

Acknowledging the concerns that parents and guardians are currently experiencing in the local community, Dr Paul Kavanagh, Director of Public Health Medicine HSE North East stated: “Our thoughts in the first instance are clearly with the families of these two children, and particularly with the family of the child who sadly and tragically died.

“We are obviously very much aware of the anxiety that is being experienced locally and our focus is to ensure appropriate public health measures are put in place. Our medical experts are working closely with the school where they attended, advising and supporting parents, guardians and teachers. They are also working with the clinical staff who cared for the cases and their families.”

While advising vigilance in relation to looking out for signs and symptoms of the disease, Dr Kavanagh stressed that the Public Health Protection Team were actively managing the situation locally.

“Vaccination means that meningitis has become a rare occurrence.  When it does occur, cases are usually isolated  - spread from person to person is unusual, especially outside household contact. Vigilance for symptoms is important especially for younger children and adolescents.”

Meningitis is a serious illness involving inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

It can be caused by a variety of different germs, mainly bacterial and viruses.

Bacterial meningitis is less common but usually more serious than viral meningitis and requires urgent treatment with antibiotics.

Bacterial meningitis may be accompanied by septicaemia (blood poisoning). The bacteria live naturally in the nose and throat of normal healthy persons without causing illness.

The spread of the bacteria is caused by droplets from the nose and mouth. The illness occurs most frequently in young children and adolescents, usually as isolated cases. Bacterial meningitis or septicaemia requires urgent antibiotic treatment."

Signs and Symptoms may include:

· Severe Headaches

· Fever

· Vomiting

· Drowsiness

· Discomfort from bright light

· Neck stiffness

The HSE advises that if anyone has any concerns they should contact their GP in the first instance but ensure that medical expertise is sought.

Further information including data on the occurrence of meningitis and symptoms are available here: http://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/vaccinepreventable/bacterialmeningitis/

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