HC Deb 05 June 1990 vol 173 cc597-8W
Mr. John Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the threat to children's health of(a) meningitis and (b) Kawasaki disease; how many people in various age groups have died of Kawasaki disease; and if he will issue information to alert the public to the disease's symptoms.

Mr. Dorrell

The two most important causes of meningitis in childhood are meningococcal meningitis and haemophilus influenza B meningitis. The Public Health Laboratory Service's communicable disease surveillance centre and the Department closely monitor meningococcal meningitis, which is a notifiable disease, so that local outbreaks can be dealt with promptly.

The chief medical officer wrote to all doctors and health authorities in February 1988 about the early management and prevention of spread of meningococcal infection. Copies of the two letters, PL/CMO(88)1 and PL/CMO(88)2, are available in the Library.

The Public Health Laboratory Service is paying special attention to the surveillance of haemophilus influenza B meningitis, and there are prospects for the use of effective vaccine following appropriate trials.

Surveillance of Kawasaki syndrome has been conducted jointly by the British Paediatric Association and the Public Health Laboratory Service's communicable disease surveillance centre since 1983. A total of 112 reports of Kawasaki disease was received for cases with onset in 1989. This gives an incidence of 1.5 per 100,000 children under five years old.

The following table shows the number of deaths from acute febrile mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome1 (MCLS), which includes Kawasaki disease, in England and Wales:

Year Age
Under 1 year 1 years 2 years
1985 1
1986 1
1987 1
1988 1 1
1 9th Revision International Communicable Disease Code 446.1
2 Provisional

Kawasaki syndrome is a disease mainly of young children and has clinical features similar to other infections. The results of routine investigations may suggest the diagnosis but are not specific. Public information on the disease would not, therefore, assist in early diagnosis of the condition. Greater professional awareness amongst paediatricians in this country of its signs and symptoms would be more appropriate. In this regard, a leading article has recently appeared in the British Medical Journal (21 April 1990), copies of which are available in the Library.