Tuesday, February 9, 1999 Published at 18:33 GMT
School defends meningitis action
Pontypridd strain: Usual symptoms may not develop
The Welsh school at the heart of an outbreak of meningitis has defended its handling of the emergency after a pupil died from the disease and another remains in hospital in a critical condition.
Chairman of the governors of Coedylan Comprehensive, Peter James, defended the school's decision not to vaccinate students until nine days after 15-year-old Gareth Gould died.
"We have every confidence that the management of this outbreak has been handled in the most appropriate manner," he said.
Welsh Health Minister John Owen Jones made a statement to Parliament about the outbreak, describing it as a "rare situation".
"This is a dreadful illness - swift and sometimes fatal in effect, but it is very treatable if prompt diagnosis is made," he said.
More frequently, victims will suffer fever, rash, muscle aches and painful joints. The usual cause of death is blood-poisoning, or meningococcal septicaemia.
But meningitis campaigners are warning that inaccurate reporting of the outbreak has spread panic among parents.
The Meningitis Research Foundation says press reports of a virulent new strain of the disease has led to floods of calls to its helpline, although the strain has been around for almost five years.
Bro Taf health authority has since confirmed that another woman from Rhydyfelin also died of meningococcal septicaemia a couple of weeks ago but that there was no connection.
Some 1,700 pupils and teachers at Coedylan Upper and Lower schools and at Trerobert primary school in Pontypridd have been given antibiotics.
Doctors say they are trying to limit the spread of the outbreak and extra shipments of vaccine have been sent in from Bristol and the West Midlands.
They say there have been no new school cases since Saturday, but do not expect to give an all-clear until the weekend because of the bug's incubation period.