Child death remains under investigation, presents low health risk

The unexpected death of a child from Sheshatshiu suspected to be caused by meningococcal disease remains under investigation by Labrador-Grenfell Health, however officials say there is little risk of the disease spreading.

Meningococcal disease suspected in death of Amy Mollen, contact tracing completed

Labrador-Grenfell Health is investigating the death of Amy Mollen, 7, of Sheshatshiu seen here with mother Jodie Ashini. (Jodie and Jolene Ashini/Submitted photo)

The unexpected death of a child from Sheshatshiu suspected to be caused by meningococcal disease remains under investigation by Labrador-Grenfell Health, however officials say there is little risk of the disease spreading in the general public.

Dr. Claudia Sarbu, medical officer of health assigned to the investigation of the death of 7-year-old Amy Mollen, said the case remains under investigation, and while pathology and lab tests are still being conducted, meningococcal disease is highly suspected. 

Amy Mollen, seen here in this CBC file photo from April 2016 during coverage of Hertiage Days celebrations in North West River . (CBC)

Sarbu also said contact tracing was done immediately with anyone who may have come in contact with Mollen to prevent the spread of the disease.

'We reached everybody in our investigation and everybody was treated."- Dr. Claudia Sarbu

"Within 24 hours, we reached all the contacts, what we call close contact — this is our focus — and from them, none reported signs of severe infection or meningitis," she said on CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

"They received, right away, antibiotic treatment. This lowers the risk of getting the disease, as well as lowers the risk of spread to other people … we reached everybody in our investigation and everybody was treated."

Vaccination greatly reduces risk

The different forms of meningococcal disease can be very serious with sudden onsets according to Sarbu, but the disease is very rare and presents little risk.

We don't have extreme high concerns for this disease, it's very rare.- Dr. Claudia Sarbu

"In our province, the immunization rates, the immunization coverage, is very high. It's over 95 per cent, and the vaccine for meningococcal disease is offered at 12 months as well as grade four," said Sarbu.

"We don't have extreme high concerns for this disease, it's very rare."

Household crowding and smoking risk factors

She said forms of meningococcal disease are not easy to get, as it spreads through direct contact with secretions from the nose or mouth, but there are factors that increase risk.   

"It's not like the flu or cold, you really need to have close contact," Sarbu said.

"It's the exposure to an infected person. Household crowding and smoking is important, active and passive smoking is a factor risk."

Sarbu said there was just one case of invasive meningococcal disease in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2014, and in addition to vaccinations, the disease can be prevented through good hygiene - washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes and not sharing food or personal hygiene items.

With files from Labrador Morning