School hit by meningitis three times in six months announces free vaccines for all pupils and staff
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
All children and staff at a primary school near Halesworth are to be offered free vaccinations against a deadly strain of meningitis following a cluster of cases over the past six months.
The students and teachers at Bramfield C of E School will receive vaccinations against Meningitis B and antibiotic treatment to prevent any further spread of the infection, after a string of three separate cases sparked concern among authorities.
The first occurred in October of last year, when six-year-old Oliver Hall died after a short battle with the illness.
Since Oliver’s death, two further children at Bramfield have been taken ill with meningitis – prompting Public Health England to investigate the situation.
However a number of parents have argued that the authority should have intervened sooner.
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John Howard, spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: “We would like to reassure parents that the appropriate action has been taken as quickly as possible to prevent any further cases.
“Bramfield Primary School, in conjunction with Halesworth Day Nursery, has been working closely with Public Health England, national experts and local NHS partners.
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“Following advice from Public Health England, it has been agreed that all children, staff, and members of the children’s household will be given an inoculation and antibiotics on May 22 followed by a second dose in June.
“A letter was sent by the primary school on May 14 to parents to alert them to the infection and the action taken by the school.”
Some parents have already decided to vaccinate their children privately – at a cost of £200 per head.
Vicky Allen, executive head teacher at Bramfield Primary School, added: “We would like to stress that there is no reason for any change in the school routine and no reason for children to be kept at home.”
The meningitis B vaccine has been available as part of NHS routine for babies under 12 months since September 2015. However, Meningitis Now argues that a vaccine for everyone would be cost-effective in comparison to the later treatment that is required after the infection is contracted.
Dr David Irwin, consultant in communicable disease control at Public Health England East, said: “I would like to reassure people that the risk of catching this infection from having spent time with any of the cases is very low. However, due to the small cluster of cases in the area, we are offering treatment and the vaccine as a precaution and to prevent any further spread of the infection. The best advice remains for everyone to be aware of and alert to the signs and symptoms of meningococcal infection. Early recognition of meningitis and septicaemia symptoms can greatly improve the outcome of the disease.
“Symptoms can include:
• A high temperature
• Severe headache
• A stiff neck, aching limbs and joints
• A dislike of bright lights
• Drowsiness and /or purple rash, which does not fade when pressed
“People who are concerned about any of these symptoms should seek medical advice immediately by calling their GP or NHS 111.”
Parents who have any concerns are advised to contact the Public Health England Helpline on 01502 719567.