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Tuesday, January 5, 1999 Published at 08:41 GMT


Meningitis vaccinations continue

Jabs: Mass vaccinations are a precaution say doctors

Children at two schools are preparing for the second mass meningitis vaccination in two days as a 16-year-old girl remains in hospital with the disease.

Janette Clucus: Precautionary measures are being taken in areas that could be at risk
Around 2,500 pupils at two schools in Gateshead are due to be vaccinated after six of them developed an infection of the C strain of the disease in 10 weeks.

Five of the pupils from Whickham and Kings Meadow comprehensive schools recovered, but a 12-year-old girl, Lorenne Barber, died on Boxing Day.

Health officials have urged parents not to panic.

Dr Bashir Malik of Gateshead Health Authority said he wanted to reassure parents that the vaccination move was a "purely preventative measure".

[ image: Lorenne Baber: Died on Boxing Day]
Lorenne Baber: Died on Boxing Day
The move comes after nearly 1,700 pupils were inoculated following the deaths of two children in Wath upon Dearne, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, from meningococcal meningitis.

The deaths are unrelated to the Gateshead outbreak.

Claire Wilkinson, 14, and Adam Rawson, 15, both pupils at Wath Comprehensive died from the strain on New Year's Eve.

Their friend Louise Salmons, 16, remains ill but stable in hospital.

Claire and Adam, who died on New Year's Eve, are understood to have kissed at a Christmas party.

More than 300 nurses administered vaccinations at the school as concerned parents and staff looked on.

[ image: Clare Wilkinson: May have kissed at Christmas party]
Clare Wilkinson: May have kissed at Christmas party
The move followed the distribution of antibiotics on Sunday following the deaths of Claire and Adam.

Deputy head teacher Anne Pinto said: "It's been a team effort and there is a shared grief amongst the staff."

Wath Comprehensive is closed on Tuesday as a mark of respect to the dead children and to allow pupils who have not yet been inoculated to come forward.

Doctors are particularly concerned for the safety of children close to the dead pupils or who may have kissed each other on the mouth, or shared a glass or bottle.

Various symptoms

A study is set to begin into why deaths of teenagers from meningitis have doubled in recent years.

But a spokesman for the Meningitis Research Foundation 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 with more information is available on 0808 8003344 or 0845 6000 800.

Health officials in South Yorkshire have also set up a hotline on 01709 302070.

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