Meningitis outbreak hits Parnu school

  • 2008-01-16
  • By Adam Krowka
TALLINN - A 15-year-old girl has died of meningitis and five others from the same school were found infected as an outbreak in Parnu is being held in check.
Samples were taken from 28 students following the death of 15 year-old Kairi Sillari, who died on the night of Jan. 9. Five children were confirmed infected with meningitis after lab results were completed on Jan. 14.
"Three of [the students] already received preventative medicine, as they had close contact with the deceased, and another two were sent for additional treatment with the help of antibiotics," Iiris Saluri, press secretary of the Health Protection Inspectorate, told Postimees.

Experts have still not been able to determine the particular type of meningitis that caused Sillari's death. Likewise it is not yet known if the five other children, all from the Parnu Raama grammar school, are carrying the same type as the deceased.

A number of classmates and relatives who had close contact with Sillari spent a few days in hospital to receive precautionary anti-microbial treatment. All have been sent home following examination while waiting on lab results.
Representatives of Parnu Hospital declined to comment on the situation. There has been no indication as to what caused the infection in Sillari, or if the other cases are directly related.
The Raama School remains in session and officials maintain that due to the nature of the infection there is no need to quarantine the other students. Classmates composed a poem in memory of Sillari which is displayed on the school's Web site.

Sillari was diagnosed with meningococcal disease at the beginning of the week of Jan. 7 and died during the night of Jan. 9. Symptoms usually occur between four and ten days after exposure to the bacteria.
Cases of meningitis are rare in European countries and much more prevalent in warmer regions such as Africa, Asia and South America. There were 11 recorded cases in Estonia in both 2006 and 2007, and one person died last year as a result of the disease.
Meningitis is a term which describes the inflammation of membranes surrounding the brain or spinal cord. It is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection; however cancer, drug reactions and diseases of the immune system may also lead to the infection.
Symptoms of meningitis are fever, lethargy and a decreased mental status. These are often hard to recognize and subsequently diagnose in children.

The infection weakens the barrier between blood and the brain, and when this ruptures a chain reaction is set off. Brain tissue becomes inflamed and blood flow to other vital parts of the brain is decreased.
A severe ear or nasal sinus infection may spread and lead to meningococcal infection, which may result in long term nerve and brain damage or death. There are several types of bacteria which may be responsible for an infection.

Meningococcal infection is only transferable from close contact and sharing of fluids.