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Tuesday, January 5, 1999 Published at 04:23 GMT


Third meningitis teenager 'stable'

Two teenagers died at Wath upon Dearne on New Year's Eve

A friend of the two teenagers who died on New Year's Eve from meningitis is in a stable condition after also contracting the disease.

BBC Correspondent Tom Ingall reporting from Rotherham: Atmosphere of sadness and shock
Sixteen-year-old Louise Salmons is in hospital, but is not said to be in any immediate danger.

Louise is a former pupil of Wath Comprehensive School in Wath upon Dearne, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

She is part of the same social circle as 14-year-old Claire Wilkinson and her friend Adam Rawson, 15, who both died from meningitis after reportedly kissing on New Year's Eve.

In a separate outbreak in Tyne and Wear, a 12-year-old girl also died from the disease.

[ image: Pupils at Wath Comprehensive will get antibiotics]
Pupils at Wath Comprehensive will get antibiotics
Pupils at Wath Comprehensive went into school to receive antibiotics on Sunday.

A spokesman said pupils would also be offered vaccinations.

Health officials in South Yorkshire have set up an information hotline on 01709 302070.

Any friends of the three teenagers who were in prolonged and close social contact, had kissed on the mouth or had shared drinking glasses or bottles since December have been urged to get in contact.

Public Health Director Tim Patterson: "Meningitis is still a very rare disease"
"We think that the young people contracted the disease as a result of socialising over the Christmas period," said Tim Patterson, South Yorkshire director of public health.

He stressed that meningitis is still a very rare disease.

John Thorne reports on the prevention programme
Claire Wilkinson's mother has complained that her daughter had to be driven 40 miles to a specialist hospital in Nottingham after a seven-hour wait for a bed at Rotherham General Hospital.

The hospital has defended its decision to move the teenager. A spokesperson said Rotherham doctors decided that Claire needed specialist paediatric intensive care facilities which not all meningitis sufferers require.

"What then happened was that Sheffield was approached and that was found to be full. Nottingham was then approached and they did have a bed available."

Vaccinations at Gateshead

In Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, more than 2,000 pupils at two schools will also be given precautionary antibiotics and vaccinations following the death of a 12-year-old girl.

Children at Whickham Comprehensive School and Kings Meadow Comprehensive in Gateshead will get the antibiotics when they return to school on Tuesday.

Six children in Tyne and Wear have been infected with the disease over the last 10 weeks.

But health officials are urging parents not to panic. Dr Bashir Malik, consultant in public health for Gateshead Health Authority said: "I would wish to reassure parents that the vaccination programme is being initiated purely as a preventative measure and all parents will be receiving written notification of it."


A spokesman for the Meningitis Research Foundation charity said: "Parents should be alert to the symptoms of meningitis but there is no need to panic.

"Early diagnosis and swift treatment offer the best chance for recovery. Only 9% or 10% of people diagnosed with meningitis die, so people should remain calm."

Symptoms can include severe headaches, fever, drowsiness, stiff neck, vomiting, confusion and a fear of light. A purple rash may also appear.

A free helpline is available for any parents worried about meningitis. The number is 0808 8003344 or 0845 6000 800.

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