Meningitis kills Olympic athlete's baby girl

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The Independent Online
THE UNPREDICTABILITY of meningitis was illustrated yesterday with the news that it had claimed the life of the eight-month-old daughter of a former Olympic athlete.

Joan Mary Simpson, daughter of Judy Simpson, a former member of the Gladiators television series, died last week. Ms Simpson, 34, was a Commonwealth gold medallist in the heptathlon and represented Britain in the European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic championships but her genetic bequest to her daughter was not enough to protect her against the disease.

Ms Simpson, known to millions as the "Gladiator" Nightshade, and her husband Robin, an athletics coach, who live in Great Barr, Birmingham, were too distressed to talk.

Andy Paul, chief administrator at Birmingham-based Birchfield Harriers athletics club, said the couple were devastated. "This is extremely sad and the whole of the club is thinking about Judy and Robin. The baby died of meningitis on Wednesday."

In Cheshire, health officials announced 3,000 young people in the town of Poynton are to be vaccinated after a third case of the disease was diagnosed. Vaccines and antibiotics are to be offered to everyone aged 11 to 21, including all pupils at the local high school.

The move follows the death of Trevor Stockton, 16, in hospital in Macclesfield on Wednesday. A 17-year-old friend who attended the same Christmas party is also in hospital and yesterday South Cheshire Health Authority said that a boy aged 18 had contracted the disease.

Under national guidelines, health authorities are required to act when more than two cases occur in the same community in case one strain of the disease is spreading.

Dr Paul Hunter, consultant for South Cheshire Health Authority, said: "Most cases of meningitis and meningococcal blood poisoning are single cases.

"Even when two cases occur the chances of further cases are small. Once the number of cases exceeds two then the possibility exists that we are dealing with a more aggressive strain."

In Durham, the parents of a 12-year-old girl who died of meningitis on New Year's Eve said she had been sent home twice from hospital in two days.

Terence and Kim Wise said it was only after their daughter Teresa had been admitted for a third time to Bishop Auckland Hospital that she was transferred to the specialist Newcastle General Hospital but died hours later.

Mr Wise said doctors had first diagnosed epilepsy on Boxing Day and then flu before concluding on the third occasion that she had a rare virus. "On the third visit the doctor told us it definitely wasn't meningitis because there was no swelling on the brain and she was able to move her neck."

A spokesman for Bishop Auckland General Hospital said it was aware of the family's concerns but was unable to comment because of patient confidentiality.