Health officials dispatched to Mossel Bay after meningitis outbreak

Cape Town - The Western Cape Department of Health has urged Mossel Bay residents not to panic after a reported outbreak of viral meningitis in the Garden Route town.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection.

Department spokesperson Marika Champion told News24 on Thursday that the disease is contained to the Mossel Bay area and is being monitored daily.

"I can confirm that a number of cases have been reported, but we can't give the number of cases as they are not all reported at our healthcare facilities."

Eyewitness News reported that at least nine children and an adult are believed to have contracted the disease.

The cases were reported between December 1 and January 24. All have been treated successfully and no deaths have been reported.

"It's viral meningitis, not the lethal meningitis, the majority of cases are not even hospitalised. There is no cause for panic at the moment," Champion said.

According to Health24, bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening condition while viral meningitis, which is more common, is generally less serious.

A local response team was activated to monitor and contain the spread of the disease. Patients and their close contacts are screened and monitored daily.


The Western Cape Department of Health says symptoms can be varied, overlapping with various other illnesses. The common signs and symptoms to look out for are:

- Fever, headache, stiff neck, tiredness, sensitivity to light

- Rash, sore throat and vomiting can also occur

- Consult a doctor, clinic, or hospital immediately if a person shows any of the below mentioned danger signs:

- loss of consciousness,

- fits (seizures),

- muscle weakness, or

- a rash consisting of dark, red discolorations all over the body.

How can you prevent getting infected?

Hand hygiene (regular hand washing with soap and water) and good personal hygiene helps to prevent infection with many viruses including enteroviruses. The virus is spread through contact with contaminated stool.

Wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet, before preparing food, and after sneezing and coughing.

Adults should teach and encourage children to wash their hands properly, and emphasise regular handwashing when children are at school and in contact with other children.