Page last updated at 09:34 GMT, Saturday, 4 April 2009 10:34 UK

Meningitis advice after girl dies

Karla Smyth, from Stream Street in Downpatrick has died
Karla Smyth, from Stream Street in Downpatrick has died

The Public Health Agency has moved to alleviate public fears after the death of an eight-year-old County Down girl from meningitis.

Karla Smyth, from Stream Street in Downpatrick, became ill on Wednesday afternoon and died on Thursday.

Dr Philip Donaghy said any risk to other people was "very small". He said her family had been given antibiotics to prevent spread of the illness.

Her parents, Kieran and Dolores, said they were devastated by her death.

In a statement released through their priest, Father Patrick Devlin, Karla's parents said she had been singing in the choir the day before she took ill and was due to perform in a musical on Thursday.

The speed with which her condition deteriorated leading to her death has turned their world upside down, they said.

Dr Philip Donaghy said meningitis remained a relatively rare form of illness.

"The parents of children who attend the same school - and its staff - have also been provided with advice on the health protection measures that have been taken, and on what they should do if they suspect any further illness," he said.

"Antibiotics are not provided to people beyond the immediate family circle as this can increase the risk to others by lowering the body's ability to naturally counter infection."

Symptoms of meningitis can include nausea, severe muscle pain, skin rash, and an aversion to bright lights. Dr Donaghy said anyone who remains concerned in any way should contact their GP for further advice.

The little girl was a pupil at St Colmcille's Primary School.

Some members of Karla's family have been travelling home from Australia following her death.

Her funeral will be held in Downpatrick on Tuesday.

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