Third case of meningitis ‘gauge’ discovered in UK

Report also brings wider concerns over agoraphobia and dementia linked to virulent strains of meningitis known as neuromyelitis optica

The third case of a strain of meningitis that causes severe brain damage has been found in Britain.

The area of the UK affected has been confirmed as London and Essex.

“Fortunately the virus is mostly mild, in the right areas of the brain and spinal cord, and the children we have seen so far seem to be improving rapidly,” Professor Derek Turner, who led the outbreak investigation team, said.

The discovery follows a two-year investigation into the death of Isabella Ball, the nine-year-old girl who died in June 2014 of severe neuromyelitis optica.

The campaign launched in the wake of her death, led by British Meningitis Trust, has now resulted in 17 cases being identified in England and six in Scotland since May 2016.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has notified officials in Scotland and across the rest of the UK of the new case, as it anticipates more cases in the region.

Further cases of virulent strains of meningitis known as neuromyelitis optica are likely to emerge in the next few months, and scientists are warning it could take months to eradicate this strain, which is predominantly infectious through air or contaminated airwaves.

“It is possible that there are still more cases out there that we are not aware of,” Turner said. “The community health effect of neuromyelitis optica is terrifying and potentially life-changing.

“The outbreak is not quite over. In most cases neuromyelitis optica is treatable. But we know from around the world that autopsies on children who died of this disease can be confusing and finding a definitive cause of death is difficult. This strain is highly virulent and there are fewer vaccines to help fight it.”

They said it was likely this diagnosis would be linked to the community in which the child lived, with homes that were not fully secured and living spaces with dust allergens.

“The new case is just the latest in a string of extraordinary cases in recent years that have defied all predictions about an immune deficiency or anything else being the cause,” said Oliver Callander, head of communications at the British Meningitis Trust.

“With the strains most commonly found in communities spreading, we suspect that we will see more cases in the UK, especially in regions with high rates of bronchial disease.

“Vaccines prevent most other bacterial and viral infections and we must ensure that these lifesaving measures are available for neuromyelitis optica. People need to be vaccinated against the virulent neuromyelitis optica strain just as they should be against the strains that pose a serious risk to children.”

If you suspect someone you know is suffering from neuromyelitis optica you can call BMT’s helpline at 0808 652 0453.

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