No public health threat from Bleckley County student’s meningitis, official says

Staff reportJanuary 13, 2014 

A Bleckley County High School student has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, but school and health officials say the case does not endanger the public health.

The girl got ill over the Christmas holiday break and has not returned to class since then, said Dr. Lawton Davis, district health director for the South Central Health District. There are no signs that the disease has spread.

Neither school nor health officials said they are aware of any other students with similar symptoms.

“To the best of my knowledge, there is no reason for anyone to be up in arms over this,” Davis said.

If the situation changes, the school system would be the first to know and would notify families, he said.

Bleckley County school officials contacted health authorities immediately last week after the girl’s condition became known.

One form of the illness, meningococcal meningitis, can result in infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.

But “there is no indication at this point that (the student has) that kind of meningitis,” Davis said.

Public health officials continue to monitor the case

Parents are understandably concerned about the situation, said Davis, who added that he could not remember a case of meningococcal meningitis in the area in his 15 years there.

The germs that cause bacterial meningitis can be contagious, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some bacteria can spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions -- kissing, for example -- but most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as diseases such as the common cold or the flu. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Meningitis infection may show up in a person by a sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck, the CDC says. It often will have other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light or altered mental state, such as confusion.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days.

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