Very ill teenager is now stable

By, Anne-Marie Emerson

A Wanganui teenager is in a stable condition in Wanganui Hospital with bacterial meningitis.

The girl, a pupil at Wanganui Collegiate School, was admitted to hospital on Thursday with the first case of meningococcal disease in the region this year.

She was in a serious condition yesterday morning, but by mid-afternoon her condition had improved to stable.

Whanganui medical officer of health Patrick O'Connor said in response to the girl's illness, nine close contacts in Wanganui were given antibiotics, and Taranaki Public Health gave antibiotics to a further 10 contacts in Hawera yesterday.

Dr O'Connor said meningococcal disease was caused by a bacteria which could be passed from one person to another through saliva. He said activities such as kissing or sharing drinks could transmit the bacteria.

"Most people with the bacteria do not get unwell. It is thought that about one person in a hundred with the bacteria will get meningococcal disease," he said.

Dr O'Connor said initial symptoms were similar to the flu, but the person could become unwell extremely quickly. The signs of meningitis include fever, vomiting, headache, sore neck and a rash.

"The main message to parents is to see a doctor if your son or daughter is becoming very unwell very quickly," Dr O'Connor said.

A spokesman for Wanganui Collegiate said the school's students were being offered support through school staff, counsellors and the chaplains.

He said boarders were told about the girl's condition on Thursday evening and day students on Friday morning.

Parents of students from the same year group as the girl were being updated on a regular basis.

The spokesman said some of the girl's closest associates at the school were among those who had been given anitbiotics as a precaution.

"We are in regular contact with Dr O'Connor and are being guided by his advice," he said.

The spokesman said the school was in "constant contact" with the girl's family.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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