Meningitis: Parents urged to be vigilant

PARENTS were today urged to remain vigilant after experts warned meningitis cases increase during the winter months.

SUFFOLK: Parents were today urged to remain vigilant after experts warned meningitis cases increase during the winter months.

The meningococcal infection, which is the most common cause of meningitis, becomes more prevalent in the winter and with some of the symptoms like flu, health officials say it is even more important to be on guard.

The warning comes after three toddlers died from the brain bug within three weeks of each other.

Ellie Parsons, 11-months-old of Felixstowe Road, was the first baby to be struck by the disease on December 14.

On New Year's Eve, two-year-old toddler Rhianna Warner, of Damselfly Road, died from the same bug and, just a day later, her playmate, two-year-old Kyron Vince, of Hawke Road, became the third victim.

All three were taken to Ipswich Hospital and investigations have been launched.

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Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust, said: “We were saddened to learn of the three recent deaths in Ipswich from suspected meningitis and our thoughts are with all of the families at this incredibly difficult time.

“Unfortunately this news comes at a time when we see more cases of bacterial meningitis occur, and with last year's fascination with swine flu still fresh in people's minds, it's more important than ever for people to remain vigilant of the symptoms of meningitis and to act quickly if concerned.

“Meningitis strikes quickly and can kill within hours. It requires prompt medical action, and failure to do so could cost lives.”

The number of cases in Suffolk have remained at a similar level over the last five years. There were 20 cases in 2004, 14 in 2005, 15 in 2006, 21 in 2008 and 21 in 2009. On average there are one or two deaths a year.

A spokeswoman from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said bacteria are passed by close contact, so family members of a meningitis case and others who have close contact may be spreading the same germs.

She said: “The HPA does tend to see an increase in meningococcal infection during the winter months. Meningococci are bacteria found naturally at the back of the throat or nose in about ten per cent of the population. Many adults and children carry these germs without ill effects. It is not known why some people become ill while others remain symptomless carriers of the bacteria.”

Do you know of anyone who has been suspected of having meningitis over the last few weeks? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail