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Meningitis fears spread in Ulster

FEARS of a meningitis outbreak were mounting today after two children were being treated in hospital for "probable" cases of the killer virus.

FEARS of a meningitis outbreak were mounting today after two children were being treated in hospital for "probable" cases of the killer virus.

The parents of one boy were today keeping a bedside vigil after their son was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital with a suspected meningococcal infection on Christmas Eve.

It is understood the youngster is from the Carrickfergus area.

It was initially believed that two children at the hospital were being treated for suspected meningitis, but that has now been ruled out by doctors.

And a four-year-old boy is being treated at Antrim Area Hospital for "probable" meningitis.

It is believed the cases are not related.

A spokeswoman for the Royal today described the boy's condition as "comfortable" in the intensive care unit.

A spokewoman for the Northern Health and Social Services Board said "A child was admitted with suspected meningococcal infection on Christmas Eve at the RVH.

"A second child was admitted to Antrim Area Hospital on Boxing Day with suspected meningococcal infection. The cases are unrelated."

Dr Heather Steen, consultant paediatrician at the Royal, today urged the public to be vigilant about the symptoms of meningitis.

Dr Steen, who has firsthand experience of treating children with various strains of the virus, said it could take up to two weeks for the children to be diagnosed following a series of detailed tests.

"The children are fine and will be home in no time.

"But everyone should be very aware of the signs of meningitis, including drowsiness and rise in temperature caused by several bugs.

"If a child is drowsy, irritable or has little blood spots that don't blanch when a glass is put on top of it, they need to be seen by their doctor immediately."


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