Sheffield meningitis tragedy: How to spot potential signs of disease

Hunters' Bar Junior School
Hunters' Bar Junior School

Parents at a Sheffield primary school where a nine-year-old girl has tragically died from suspected meningitis have been advised of possible symptoms of the disease.

Sheffield girl aged 9 dies from suspected meningitis

In a letter to parents, headteacher Jill Hallsworth said: "This case is obviously very tragic but I want to reassure you that I have spoken with a Public Health doctor today who has advised me that meningococcal infection is a rare illness and the organism that causes the disease is not passed very easily from person to person.

"This is a very tragic situation and all of our thoughts are with the family and friends of the child concerned.

"I also want to take this opportunity to remind you that, while meningococcal infection is a rare illness, it can be serious and so it is always important for everyone to be aware of the symptoms of meningococcal infection and to seek urgent medical help if there is any concern at all about someone who is ill – contact NHS 111 or your GP for advice.2

Parents have been advised to look out for possible symptoms of meningococcal infection, which include a high temperature and/or vomiting; severe headaches; a stiff neck, aching limbs and joints; a dislike of bright lights and drowsiness and/or a purple rash, which does not fade when pressed.

In small babies, a further symptom can be a refusal to feed and a high pitched cry.

Not all of these symptoms will be present in all cases of meningococcal infection.

According to the Meningitis Research Foundation, meningococcal disease affects around 2,000 people in the UK and Ireland every year.

A spokesman said: "The disease can affect anyone of any age, but mainly affects babies, pre-school children and young people. Meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia are life-threatening diseases, but most people affected do recover.

Further advice and information about meningococcal infection is available by contacting NHS Direct, the 24-hour NHS Helpline on 0845 4647 or NHS UK the National Meningitis Trust helpline on 0845 6000 800 or Meningitis Trust or the Meningitis Research Foundation on 080 8800 3344.