A four-year-old boy has died of bacterial meningitis, sparking off a rapid reaction from the health authorities to reassure worried parents whose children might have come into contact.

The child first displayed symptoms a few days ago and passed away on Sunday, sources told the Times of Malta.

This kind of meningitis is very rare, causing one or two deaths every year. The bacteria tend to lie dormant in the nasal passage and throat but sometimes the disease develops.

“We can’t explain what sparks it off,” the head of the Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control Unit Tanya Melillo said.

She was at the school on Monday morning, handing out information leaflets and talking to parents of the boy’s classmates and teachers, reassuring them that the disease does not spread, and that they have never come across any cases of secondary contagion either in schools, workplaces or within the family itself.

There are several types of meningitis, some of which are more dangerous than others. Three different vaccines are available against the various types, with the public health authorities recommending different types for various ages of child and for the elderly.

The most common causes of meningitis are viral and bacterial infections. Some viral and bacterial meningitis are contagious. They can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or close contact.

The symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis can be similar in the beginning. However, bacterial meningitis symptoms are usually more severe. The symptoms also vary depending on age.

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