A wait for laboratory results and privacy concerns were the
main reasons it took Northland health officials more than two
weeks to inform the public that a toddler died from
meningococcal disease hours after being seen by a GP.
An investigation has been launched into the death of the
14-month-old girl from the Bay of Islands area on October 15,
with the outcome likely to be released next week.
Northland District Health Board (NDHB) medical officer of
health Jonathan Jarman said the child became unwell on
October 14 and was taken to the after-hours GP service
operated by the Te Tai Tokerau Primary Health Organisation at
Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa.
The child died from the Meningococcal B strain, not the
Meningococcal C strain that killed three people in Northland
last year. They included Whangarei 18-year-old Ben Brown, who
died after being twice sent home by medics at Whangarei
Meningitis is a notifiable disease and Dr Jarman said the DHB
had to await the outcome of laboratory tests to confirm it
was meningococcal, and what strain, before details could be
He said there were also concerns that releasing some
information could identify the family and that could lead to
Dr Jarman met with the girl's family, and said it is one of
the saddest cases he has seen and the DHB had to ensure it
did not add to the family's stress or trauma by breaching its
He said meningococcal disease was a very unpredictable
disease, with Northland GPs seeing hundreds of children with
flu-like symptoms. Meningococcal looks like the flu or a
tummy bug in its early stages and it is important that
parents seek medical advice if their child becomes unwell.
"This case was an example of how quickly meningococcal
disease can progress. If your child is sick take them to the
doctor. And if they don't get better or if you are worried,
go back to the doctor."
There have been no new cases in Northland since the child's
death. For more information talk to medics, a medical centre,
or contact the public health service. For free advice after
hours (24 hours) phone Healthline 0800 611116.
- By Mike Dinsdale of The Northern Advocate