12/11/2013 04:37 EST | Updated 02/10/2014 05:59 EST

5-year-old Surrey girl dies of meningitis, public health measures not needed

SURREY, B.C. - A five-year-old girl in Surrey, B.C., has died of meningitis, but a medical health officer says public health measures do not need to be taken to prevent the bacterial infection at her school.

The kindergarten student died on the weekend after being transferred to BC Children's Hospital from Surrey Memorial.

Dr. Michelle Murti of the Fraser Health Authority said Tuesday that the type of bacterial infection involved is not uncommon and that the vast majority of cases do not cause meningitis.

"It is a bacteria that is in the environment and it is passed from person to person. But why it was so severe for her, we don't know."

Murti said children who contract meningitis can become severely ill very quickly, as was the case for the kindergarten student.

"There were a couple of days of being unwell and as things turned worse it progressed quite rapidly," she said, adding that a sudden and severe headache with a fever, nausea and vomiting require urgent attention.

"Some of these cases come on so rapidly that parents will say they put their kid down before bed, they were perfectly well and then they'll wake up in the morning and their child has already passed away, unfortunately."

Bacterial meningitis has become rare in B.C. because of the use of vaccines through routine childhood immunization.

Murti did not know if the girl had been vaccinated, though she said not all strains of the bacteria are covered by the vaccine.

Letters informing parents about the girl's death were sent home by the school on Monday, she said.

"We are receiving calls at the local public health unit from parents who have further questions. But at this time, based on the type of bacterial infection that it was there isn't any other public health followup that we would be doing for the school."

In young children, symptoms of meningitis may include a major change in behaviour including sleepiness, irritability, excessive crying and lack of appetite.