Meningococcus Bacteria. Photo credit: Top News New Zealand.

Meningococcus Bacteria. Photo credit: Top News New Zealand.

The National Surveillance Unit of the Health and Medical Services Ministry and World Health Organisation, WHO have confirmed receiving reports of four deaths in children under 12 years old in Makira Province.

In a statement yesterday, the Unit and WHO said there is a possibility that the outbreak is caused by Meningococcal bacteria, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Under Secretary Health Improvement, Dr Tenneth Dalipanda said meningococcal disease is potentially fatal and should always be viewed as serious, but most people will survive with immediate antibiotic treatment.

Dr Dalipanda explained the bacteria is not easily spread from person to person and the bacteria does not survive well outside the human body.

He adds, it is spread through respiratory droplets, such as through kissing, and people most at risk of infection are those who stay in the same house or have very close contact with someone with the disease.

A medical team sent from Honiara is currently in Makira to assist provincial health staff further investigate and control this outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Under Secretary for Health Improvement said people and families should protect themselves.

Dr Tenneth Dalipanda said families should also be on the lookout for symptoms and must visit their local health center immediately if symptoms occur.

The most common symptoms of the Meningococcal bacteria are a stiff neck; high fever; sensitivity to light; confusion; headaches and vomiting.

Others include cold hands and feet, limb and joint pain, headache, or pin-prick rash changing to large red-purple blotches.

Babies and very young children may also be irritable, have difficulty waking, rapid breathing, diarrhea, a high-pitched cry or refuse to eat.

Dr Dalipanda said meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but the course should be started as soon as possible.

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