A charity that raises awareness of meningitis says Honley High School is absolutely right to offer antibiotics to students.
Last week the school wrote to parents after two pupils have been confirmed as contracting the infection and a third was said to be undergoing tests.
Headteacher Paul Greenough wrote to parents saying that a risk assessment had been carried out and Public Health England had advised that all students in year 11 be offered a “single dose of antibiotics – purely as a precautionary measure.
Rob Dawson, Director of Support at Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) said: “Public Health England (PHE) has guidelines in place which specify when public health action should be taken in cases of meningococcal disease. The antibiotics are usually only given to people living in the same household as the patient and to their boy/girlfriend.
“However, where there have been two or more cases of meningococcal disease within a short period of time in a nursery, school, college or certain other settings, PHE may decide that antibiotics should be given to a wider range of contacts as well, usually to the particular class or school year affected. Antibiotics are given as a precaution to kill the bacteria that cause the disease and so help stop it from spreading. As it takes time for the antibiotics to take effect, even if you are given antibiotics it is still important to know the symptoms.”
He added: “It’s estimated that around one in four teenagers harmlessly carry meningococcal bacteria in the back of the nose and throat, but it is quite unusual for the bacteria to invade the body and cause disease. Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted from person to person by close contact with others such as coughing, sneezing, kissing etc.
“Usually we have to be in very close or regular contact with someone for the bacteria to pass between us.
“Even when this happens, most of us will not become ill because we have natural immunity. That said, it is important for everyone to be aware of the symptoms and to get urgent medical help if they suspect someone is ill with meningitis or septicaemia.”
Symptoms include a severe headache; high temperature and/or vomiting; stiff neck, aching limbs or joints; dislike of bright lights; drowsiness or confusion; muscle pains especially in the legs; and a fine purple rash that does not fade when pressed under a glass.
Meningitis Research Foundation has a free helpline on 080 8800 3344 and has a support team for anyone affected.