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Student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com

A senior from Carson High School was admitted to Rowan Regional Medical Center Friday after being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and later airlifted to Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where she remains a patient.
Rita Foil, public information officer for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said Principal Henry Kluttz told her Monday that the student’s condition had improved some. “We have not heard a report today on how she’s doing,” she said.
Because bacterial meningitis is highly contagious, Foil said school officials have been working with the Rowan County Health Department to take precautions to prevent spreading and help identify any further cases early on. After talking with the affected student’s teachers, she said Assistant Principal Kelly Withers and Susan McClary, the school nurse, met with students who sat near her or had close contact with her prior to her illness to let them know what was going on.
Kluttz also sent out a Connect-Ed telephone message to all parents advising them of the case and listing the symptoms: high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and discomfort looking at bright lights. Foil said Kluttz advised parents to contact the health department or their family physicians if their children had any of those symptoms.
Four students, including one who drank water after the affected student, have been put on a preventive antibiotic by their physicians, Foil said.
Foil said the affected student signed out of school at about 1:20 p.m. Thursday – the symptoms came on very quickly.
The student went to her family physician that afternoon, who began treating her for a virus. After her condition worsened overnight, Foil said she returned to her physician, Friday who had her admitted to Rowan Regional.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Web site, bacterial meningitis “can mainly be spread from person to person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions. This can occur through coughing, kissing and sneezing.”
The Web site says none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as things like the common cold or the flu. Also, the bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. It says, however, sometimes the bacteria that cause meningitis have spread to other people who have had close or prolonged contact with a patient with meningitis
Because bacterial meningitis can be life threatening, the CDC Web site says early diagnosis and treatment are very important. If symptoms occur, the patient should see a doctor immediately.
The diagnosis is usually made by growing bacteria from a sample of spinal fluid, according to the Web site. The spinal fluid is obtained by performing a spinal tap, in which a needle is inserted into an area in the lower back where fluid in the spinal canal can be collected. Identification of the type of bacteria responsible is important for selection of correct antibiotics.
The CDC Web site says bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. It is important, however, that treatment be started early in the course of the disease.
Appropriate antibiotic treatment of most common types of bacterial meningitis should reduce the risk of dying from meningitis to below 15 percent, the Web site says, although the risk is higher among the elderly.
Read more in Wednesday’s Post.

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