Durban - One of the two eManzimtoti children airlifted from a Mozambique hospital last week has died from a bacterial infection.
Lianja van Rhyn, 8, died at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital on Sunday morning after failing to respond to treatment.
Her brother Tian Fourie, 12, is in a stable condition. He is in isolation and his family are only allowed to look at him through a glass window.
Medical staff wear specialised suits and masks in the ward.
KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said the bacterial infection had presented the same symptoms as mumps - the swelling of their lymph nodes and a constricted throat.
But tests were still being carried out to establish the exact type of bacteria.
He said there were concerns about what the bacteria was and where the children had picked it up.
He said they would be working closely with Mozambican authorities to establish where the children picked up the infection.
Dhlomo said Lianja had not responded to treatment.
“Her brother seems to be responding but we are keeping a very close on eye on him.”
The two children fell ill last week. They were in Mozambique to visit their father.
Grandmother Lana Fourie, who with the children’s mother, had been keeping vigil at the hospital, said that Lianja died at about 6.17am on Sunday.
“We want to thank the hospital for all the help and care they have given to us and the children. We ask that everybody prays for the little boy to survive this.”
Asked if she knew the nature of the illness Lana said her grandchildren were being treated for a bacterial infection and also said Tian had been showing signs of progress.
“We are still waiting for more laboratory test results. Nobody knows exactly what it is or how they contracted it.”
The children’s mother, Cornelia “Jana” Fourie, was too distraught to speak on Sunday.
“She is devastated,” said the grandmother.
Lianja and Tian were airlifted from Maputo’s Icor Hospital by the Department of Health’s fixed aircraft wing on Thursday. Tian had been the first of the two to be admitted to the Maputo hospital on Sunday after he developed a fever and a sore throat which later became swollen. He was operated on and a tube inserted into his windpipe to allow easier breathing.
Lianja fell ill on Tuesday with the same symptoms. When she was taken to hospital she was said to be
suffering from a bacterial infection and was admitted on Wednesday.
Just before being airlifted into South Africa the little girl had to be rushed to theatre, where the doctors secured her airway, before being transported back.
Dhlomo visited the two children at the hospital where he was briefed by the doctors attending to the children.
He expressed confidence that the best care was being given to them.
The children’s mother and grandmother also expressed appreciation to Dhlomo and the department for their efforts.
At that time of Dhlomo’s visit, tests were being conducted to determine the nature of illness.
When contacted on Sunday for comment, provincial Health spokesman, Sam Mkhwanazi, said that from the tests conducted, the hospital had been able to determine what the children were suffering from.
He, however, said the department was bound by doctor-patient confidentiality and could not divulge the nature of the illness.
Asked how they had contracted the disease and whether it was something airborne, Mkhwanazi said: “That is very difficult to establish, we do not know”.
It had also not been established if they had contracted the infection in Mozambique or before leaving South Africa.