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Jan 30, 2004

Meningitis death confirmed

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Today, the office of the director of health services confirmed it was Meningitis that caused the death of a nine-month-old baby girl on January twenty-fifth in the Cayo District. Dr. Paul Edwards the epidemiologist who conducted the investigation spoke with News Five about the case and if Belizeans should be concerned.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Epidemiologist, Min. of Health

“It is unfortunate that the nine-month-old baby died from meningitis confirmed by laboratory diagnosis. However, we must be cognizant of the fact that when we talk about an outbreak of meningitis, we are saying that it is one more than the normal and the normal for us here in Belize is zero, so we don’t want people to be alarmed thinking that there are fifteen, twenty, fifty, or a hundred individuals in Belize being affected by meningitis at this present moment. The medical officer when that child had died did put the proper mechanisms in place whereby all the family members got medication on that very same day to prevent their developing meningitis. And that is what the protocols call for because normally those who have close contact with that person who has meningitis should be given the medication because of the close contact they then will be able to develop meningitis. So the proper medication was put in place and its only one single case.

Remember now, though we didn’t find anybody who was ill as if to say that child got meningitis from somebody else, so we didn’t find a next case. There are five to ten percent of individuals who are asymptomatic carriers, meaning that in our nasal pharynx, the nose and the pharynx that bacteria is there and that individual might be a carrier and is not sick. So we are thinking that was probably the source of how this child acquired this bacteria.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Is there any confirmation about the report we received that in the first week of January an adult died of meningitis?”

Dr. Paul Edwards

“Okay, remember now what happens, that was an elderly woman who was found at home because she suffered an accident and was taken to the hospital in an unconscious state, so she suffered a cerebral vascular accident, what we call a C.V.A. Because the nervous system is involved, what happen is that she had a stiffening of the neck. That would constitute one of the symptoms, thinking of a possible case of meningitis. When that sample was done at the lab we did not find any micro-organism that there was no growth, so what we are saying then, we discard the diagnosis of meningitis, it was not a case of meningitis.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Should people be concerned?”

Dr. Paul Edwards

“Concerned to what extent are you talking about? Because remember now in 1999, there was one reported case of meningitis, in the year 2001, one reported case of meningitis, in the year, 2003, there were two reported cases of meningitis. We are saying that it is very, very small. We do not want to alarm the public to say that whenever a child becomes ill–because when meningitis starts, the symptoms mimics many other respiratory illness. It starts first with fever, there might be some vomiting, there might be some diarrhoea, there might some headache as such, which would be hard to diagnose in a child. And that very start of it mimics many other diseases, so it is now for the doctors to be aware and cognisant when they are treating patients whereby you have an unexplained fever. And our doctors are properly trained, they do know how to recognise meningitis, however, in the case of meningitis, even with all the good medical support because of the nature of diseases, people would die.”

The nine month old baby girl died six days after she became sick.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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