Courtenay Rushton's family and friends gather in Ashburton today to farewell the 16-year-old who died at Christchurch Hospital last week of suspected meningococcal disease.

Clinical indications suggested meningococcal disease was the most likely cause of the Rangi Ruru pupil's death, but it was unlikely to be confirmed because prompt treatment with antibiotics meant microbiological culture was not possible. She did not contract her illness at school.

The sudden death of the teenager from the rare disease prompted national media interest.

In a statement through the Canterbury District Health Board, family spokesman Duncan Storrier asked for family and friends be given privacy, and time to grieve.


"Courtenay was a beautiful, outgoing and active young woman who just a week ago was looking forward to a bright and promising future.

"The family are clearly devastated by her loss and struggling to come to terms with the fact she is no longer with us."

Mr Storrier said the family wanted to thank medical personnel who treated Miss Rushton.

"The family have asked me to make a point of thanking the health professionals who gave her the best possible care during her last days - from Westpac paramedics, to the doctors and nurses at Christchurch Hospital and elsewhere."

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said it was important to raise awareness and make sure people had the information in perspective.

"I'd like to make it clear to people that while meningococcal disease is frightening, it is rare and most people take all the necessary steps to protect their children."

He said the family had been checked and treated so were at no risk of getting ill or passing on infection to others.

"Everyone involved has done the right things: Courtenay's family had ensured that she received all appropriate care through her life, including all recommended vaccinations, and they and their health providers responded quickly and appropriately in getting her to where she could get the best possible treatment."

"Tragically, it was not possible to save Courtenay and our thoughts and sympathy go out to her family and friends at this sad time."

Miss Rushton's funeral is at Holy Name Church in Ashburton.

Meningococcal Facts:

• Meningococcal Disease is a serious bacterial infection, with around 100 confirmed or probable cases a year.

• The bacteria spreads through secretions from the nose or throat, such as coughing or sneezing.

• Meningococcal disease can be difficult to diagnose because it can look like other illnesses. It can spread very quickly.

• The symptoms may include high fever, headache, vomiting or (in infants) refusal of feeds, sleepiness, a stiff neck and dislike of or sensitivity to bright lights, joint and muscle pains and a rash.

• It can be treated with antibiotics but early treatment is important.

• If you or someone in your household has these symptoms call your doctor straight away.

(Source: Ministry of Health)