5 Sep 2012

Girl dies of suspected meningococcal disease

10:22 pm on 5 September 2012

About six children are on antibiotics following the death of a Wellington schoolgirl from suspected meningococcal disease.

Amanda Crook-Barker, a 12-year-old pupil who attended Evan's Bay Intermediate, died on Monday evening after she began to show symptoms including a rash earlier in the day.

Principal Wendy Esera says Amanda was at home with what was believed to be a stomach bug, but her condition deteriorated very rapidly. She had been at a birthday party on Sunday and was feeling unwell the following morning.

Wellington's medical officer of health Annette Nesdale says people who had very close contact with the girl have been given antibiotics.

It is the third fatality this year and first in the Wellington region. Thirty-eight cases have been notified so far, including seven in Wellington, and five in Auckland this week.

Tests are being carried out to determine what strain of the disease caused Amanda Crook-Barker's death and are likely to take a week.

Adrian Gilliland told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Wednesday the death was the fastest he has ever heard of the disease taking hold.

Dr Gilliland said there is usually time to get patients with meningococcal symptoms to medical care and prevent deaths.

What to look for

Dr Annette Nesdale says meningococcal cases can be hard to diagnose in the early stages as symptoms can appear flu-like, but even if a GP sends patients home they should still be closely monitored.

The symptoms include: vomiting, sensitivity to light, a sore neck and a rash which does not fade even when pressed.

Dr Nesdale says the number of cases tend to spike during the end of winter and early spring when there is a lot of respiratory illness about.

The Meningitis Foundation says there have been hundreds of hits on its website on Wednesday from concerned people.

One of the website's directors, Paul Gilberd, says its key message is not to swap saliva, including drink bottles and cigarettes, as 15% of the population has the bacteria that can cause the disease.