Third teenager develops bacterial meningitis

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The Independent Online
A TEENAGER who used to attend the school where two friends died of meningitis is thought to have contracted the disease.

Louise Salmons, 16, was having tests yesterday at Barnsley District General Hospital, where she was said to be in a stable condition. She was a pupil at Wath Comprehensive School near Rotherham, Yorkshire, until June and remained a member of the same social circle as the school's two meningitis victims. Claire Wilkinson, 14, and her friend Adam Rawson, 15, both died from the meningococcal C strain on New Year's Eve.

Dr Tim Patterson, Rotherham's director of public health, said Louise was being treated as a probable case of meningitis infection. He added: "What actually kills people is septicaemia, which is blood poisoning. You can get it from any of the bacterial forms of meningitis. In Rotherham, we have seen a lot of septicaemia, which seems to be C strain. The teenage age group do seem to have a higher fatality rate - it seems to strike them down."

All 1,700 pupils at the school at Wath-on-Dearne were given antibiotics at the weekend. After the form of meningitis was identified as one that can be vaccinated against, an immunisation programme was launched at the school yesterday.

The school is to remain closed today as a mark of respect and pupils will return to lessons tomorrow.

Michelle Dowdall, whose 12-year-old son Liam is at the school, said: "I am a bit worried but very impressed that they have agreed to immunise the children, which is a good step.

"My son is okay. He is taking it all in his stride. Kids do - it's the parents who tend to worry."

Dawn Johnson, who has a 12-year-old daughter at the school, said: "We were worried before but now we have seen everything and they have explained it all we feel better."

Robert Godber, the head at Wath Comprehensive, said parents and pupils had reacted with a "calm dignity" to the tragedy. "Obviously people are anxious, but they have all been absolutely splendid," he said.

Meningitis can be viral or bacterial. Anne-Marie Delrosa of the National Meningitis Trust said it was the bacterial form that could kill. The A strain was rarely seen in the UK, B was the main cause of bacterial meningitis, with C the second cause.

A rash that does not disappear when pressed firmly is the distinctive feature, but flu-like symptoms alone can indicate meningitis infection.

This time of the year sees the highest incidence of the disease.

Yesterday it was reported that a six-year-old boy from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was though to have died of meningitis C on 29 December. A suspected meningitis patient, a 38-year-old woman, was flown 180 miles from Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral to North Tees General in Middlesbrough because no other intensive care bed was available.

The National Meningitis Trust has an information helpline on 0845 6000800.