Ashburton teen claimed by disease

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 09:57 07/01/2014
Courtenay Shavaughan Rushton
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TRAGIC LOSS: Family have described Courtenay Rushton as "everlastingly loved, precious and amazingly beautiful".

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A 16-year-old Ashburton girl who died from suspected meningococcal disease was a "spirited angel", her grieving family say. 

Courtenay Shavaughan Rushton died in Christchurch Hospital on Friday after being admitted with suspected meningococcal disease on December 30. 

Courtenay, who boarded at Christchurch's Rangi Ruru Girls' School, was not believed to have had any underlying medical conditions, but rapidly became unwell last week. 

She went to Twizel Medical Centre, before being sent to Timaru Hospital and later Christchurch Hospital on December 30. 

Canterbury medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said meningococcal disease had not been confirmed, but was suspected in Courtenay's death. 

"It's a terrible tragedy. It's been unbelievably difficult for the family."

Health authorities were notified of less than one in 100,000 cases each year, with an even smaller number being fatal. 

"It is very rare fortunately," Humphrey said.

A death notice published in The Press this morning described Courtenay as a "spirited angel who has written her name on every star". 

Courtenay was "everlastingly loved, precious and amazingly beautiful", the family notice read.

Humphrey said all of Courtenay's close contacts had since been treated with antibiotics and posed no risk of contracting or spreading the disease. 

It was not known how Courtenay became ill, but 5 to 15 per cent of the general population were carriers of meningococcal.

"It never does them or anyone else any harm. It's not known why the bacterium sometimes becomes aggressive and invasive. This is a very unusual circumstance."

Young adults living in institutions like boarding schools or university halls were at a slightly higher risk of contracting the disease.

"It's the nature of the institution. It can spread more easily so rates are probably higher."

Humphrey understood the Ministry of Health was embarking on an information campaign to provide vaccinations against meningococcal to schools and universities. 

Courtenay was believed to have been vaccinated and did not have any underlying medical conditions. 

"All Courtenay's friends and family would be questioning why did it happen to Courtenay, why did it happen at all. Unfortunately there isn't always an answer to that," Humphrey said. 

"All her life she did the right things; her family had provided her with all the right sort of care, she'd had all the recommended vaccines. She was just very very unlucky."

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- The Press

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