Don't relax, says grieving mum

SHABNAM DASTGHEIB AND JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 06/09/2012
Amanda Crook-Barker, 12, died suddenly from suspected meningococcal disease
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FAMILY'S LOSS: Amanda Crook-Barker, 12, died suddenly from suspected meningococcal disease.

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A schoolgirl's sudden death from meningococcal disease is a reminder that vaccinations are not a complete and lasting protection against the aggressive disease, health professionals say.

Evans Bay Intermediate pupil Amanda Crook-Barker, 12, died on Monday from what has been confirmed as meningococcal disease - just two hours after a rash appeared.

She had been vaccinated against the disease, possibly with a drug used between 2004 and 2011 to control the outbreak of a unique New Zealand B strain.

It will be a week before test results confirm which strain of the disease killed her.

Her family and close friends are taking antibiotics to ensure the bacteria does not attack them too, and Regional Public Health has warned Wellington's school community to watch for symptoms.

These can be flu-like, including fever, drowsiness, aversion to bright light, neck stiffness, muscle aches and pains, vomiting, nausea, headaches and a rash.

Lisa Crook said she could not understand how immunisation did not keep her "beautiful, fit, healthy" daughter safe.

"She was immunised, that's what I don't understand.

"But they don't always work and to me that's not fair. I just keep thinking I'm going to wake up. I feel like someone is going to shake me awake."

Medical officer Annette Nesdale said all 13 strains of meningococcal disease were severe, and the two most common strains in New Zealand were B and C.

A vaccine was available for C, but there was a worldwide hunt for a B vaccine. Vaccines became less effective over time, possibly even after two years, Dr Nesdale said.

Immunisation Advisory Centre doctor Nikki Turner said full immunity protection against meningococcal disease was unlikely.

The now unavailable B strain vaccine protection would wane after about three years, and the current C strain vaccine may last up to 10 years. No vaccine offered full protection.

It was Ms Crook's birthday when she watched her daughter die. Amanda had enjoyed a weekend spent at a disco, a "pizza party" birthday and celebrating Father's Day.

But by Monday she felt "a little bit sick" and had the day off school.

Ms Crook said her other children - Logan, 7, and 18-month-old Angel - would be going to the doctor often in the future.

Her message to parents was that if something was wrong, they should get medical help.

Evans Bay Intermediate School was flooded with flowers and chalk-drawn tributes to Amanda yesterday.

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Today the school will hold a special mufti day to raise the $1000 needed for her funeral on Saturday in the school's hall.

Her death was the first fatal meningococcal case in Wellington this year. Fifteen other cases have been confirmed in the region in the past 12 months.

- The Dominion Post

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