Sheffield girl, aged 9, dies from suspected meningitis

Hunters Bar Junior School
Hunters Bar Junior School

A nine-year-old girl from Sheffield has died from suspected meningitis.

The Year 5 primary school pupil attended Hunters Bar Junior School on Sharrow Vale Road.

She died in hospital yesterday morning.

Headteacher Jill Hallsworth said: "We are all just so sad that a member of our school community has died but we are taking a lot of time to remember her beautiful personality.

"She was a genuinely good person and helped everyone she could.

"She was a superb school council member and everyone knew her because she exuded positivity and care for everyone in the school community.

"She was special and will be missed.

"Our thoughts are very much with the family at this difficult time."

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “Sadly a year five pupil from Hunter’s Bar Junior School died in hospital on Tuesday morning.

"The probable cause is meningococcal disease.

“Medical experts have advised the school that meningococcal infection is a rare illness and is not passed easily from person to person.

"As a precautionary measure those who have been in closest contact with the child have been offered antibiotics.

“We are working with the school community to support them during this difficult time.

"My heart goes out to the family and our thoughts are with you all.”

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.

Dr Nachi Arunachalam, consultant in communicable disease control at Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “We can confirm that a case of probable meningococcal disease has been diagnosed in a child from Sheffield who has, very sadly, died."

Meningococcal disease is an infection which can cause meningitis and septicaemia.

“This is a tragic reminder of how devastating this illness can be and our deepest sympathies are with the family concerned,” Dr Arunachalam said.

"Obviously this is a tragic occurrence and we fully understand these situations can cause great concern for the local community.

"However, it’s very important to stress that any possible health risk to others is low. Meningococcal disease is a rare infection and it does not pass easily from person-to-person. Where cases of meningococcal disease occur, it is uncommon to see other linked cases."

Dr Inamdar said, where cases of meningococcal disease are diagnosed, public health experts will identify those who have had the closest contact with the person concerned and offer them preventative antibiotic treatment.

“Close contacts of this case are being identified and, as a precautionary measure, will be offered antibiotic treatment,” he said.

“As always, it’s crucial that we all stay alert to the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and take immediate action if infection is suspected. Meningococcal disease progresses rapidly and so it is important to seek urgent medical help if there is any concern at all.”

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 www.nhs.uk, the Meningitis Now helpline on 0808 80 10 388 or www.meningitisnow.org or the Meningitis Research Foundation on 080 8800 3344.