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Meningitis unconfirmed in death; unrelated case at SBHS

Flags at local schools and government buildings are being flown at half staff Aug. 10, by executive order of President Barack Obama, in honor of the victims of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

San Benito County Public Health officials confirmed that a Ladd Lane Elementary School student was treated for bacterial meningitis last week, but said that so far the doctors treating the child said that the test results for possible meningitis have been inconclusive, according to an announcement from the agency.

The county health officials also confirmed that they have been notified of an unrelated case of viral meningitis diagnosed in a San Benito High School student.

The Ladd Lane child died on Saturday, according to health officials.

“What the doctors said exactly, is that they were treating the patient for the signs and symptoms which he presented which were consistent with bacterial meningitis,” said Allison Griffin, a public health nurse for San Benito, of the elementary school student. “At this time all the test results are inconclusive.”

The doctors treating the child notified the county public health department Nov. 1 that they were treating a patient for the condition, and public health alerted school officials that day.

“The reason we sent the notice to the entire school at Ladd Lane is everyone had heard about it,” Griffin said. “They wanted information from the health department or the school nurse.”

In the case of the high school situation, school officials were notified of the illness by the student’s family, and then the school officials got in contact with the public health department. The student has been out of school for a week, and school officials notified the parents of those students who are in a class with the ill student, Griffin said.

“Viral meningitis is not as severe as bacterial meningitis,” Griffin said. “You get over it like any other cold, without medication.”

The San Benito County Public Health Department released a public health alert about meningitis today.

The alert states: “San Benito County Public Health has been notified that a local resident died recently after presumably being infected with bacterial meningitis. The exact strain of the bacteria is still unknown. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of the patient.”

The health alert also noted that meningitis can be caused by common bacterial or viral infections that spread from other parts of the body into the bloodstream and to the central nervous system, where it causes swelling of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms of the illness

Common symptoms of meningitis can include fever, lethargy (decreased consciousness), irritability, or sensitivity to light, although symptoms may vary depending on age, according to the health alert. Many cases of meningitis result from infections that can be contagious.

Someone who is infected can put out infectious drops of fluid in the air when they cough, laugh, talk or sneeze. These droplets can then infect others who are close by when they breathe in or when they touch the surfaces where the drops landed and then touch their own noses or mouths without washing hands. Sharing food, drinking glasses, eating utensils, tissues, or towels may all transmit the infections as well. Some infectious organisms can spread through a person’s stool, and someone who comes in contact with the stool and doesn’t wash hands – such as a child in day care – may contract the infection.

The infections most often spread between people who are in close contact, such as those who live together or people who kiss or share eating utensils. Casual contact at school or work with someone who has one of these infections usually will not transmit the infectious agent.

Meningitis is a treatable illness if caught early. A person displaying any of the symptoms described above should get in contact with a doctor immediately.

Routine childhood immunizations include effective vaccines (Hib, pneumococcal, and meningococcal) to prevent various types of meningitis.

For more information, call the San Benito County Health Department at (831) 637-5367.