Toms River Elementary Student Contracts Meningitis
Parents and guardians of more than 750 Elementary School Students in Ocean County were issued an advisory letter Monday when a pupil contracted Meningitis.
Ocean County Health Department Spokeswoman Leslie Terjesen says they were notified by a school nurse late last week that one student at the East Dover Elementary School was diagnosed with the contagious disease.
Terjesen says Toms River Regional School District officials have been very proactive in preventing the spread of meningitis. "They have certainly cleaned and sanitized any of the rooms and they're doing it again and they're also doing any transportation vehicles that might be involved." The Elementary School has also been provided with hand-sanitizers for each classroom as a precaution.
Terjesen says a Health Department hotline has also been set up for parents to call with any questions or concerns about symptoms at (732) 341-9700 extension 7515. She says someone will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Terjesen says it's not easy to contract meningitis. She says not only would you have to be in close proximity with the person who has the disease but involves the exchange of saliva. She says children must be encouraged to take universal precautions as they would in protecting themselves from the flu. "We really encourage hand washing and covering the cough, not sharing drinks, not sharing sippy cups, not sharing sodas, you know things like that."
However Terjesen says parents need to seek medical attention right away if they believe their child is showing certain symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness and a rash.
Terjesen says they're still waiting to hear what type of meningitis the student contracted. She says it could be viral meningitis or the more serious, bacterial meningitis. However, she says family members have notified them that the student is recovering.
She says meningitis is a disease caused by the infection of fluids in the protective membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by a bacteria or a virus. She says it can also be caused by physical injury, cancer and certain types of drugs.
This letter was sent to parents/guardians of East Dover Elementary School students Monday afternoon:
March 12, 2012
We have been notified by the Ocean County Health Department that one of our students has been diagnosed with meningitis. While this can be upsetting, the chance of you or your child also becoming ill with this disease is very small. Public health and school personnel are working together to protect the health and safety of all students and staff. The following information will help you understand the situation.
• Meningitis is an infection that can be caused by bacteria. The bacteria is spread by close contact with someone who has the illness. Examples of close contact would be kissing, sharing cups, bottles or eating utensils with the ill person, or coming in contact with coughs or sneezes of the ill person. Being in the room with the ill person is not considered close contact.
• Taking antibiotics can prevent meningitis from developing in persons who are identified as close contact.
• Even after exposure to the bacteria, it is very unusual to get infected with the illness. It takes 2-10 days before symptoms appear.
• When a person becomes ill with meningitis, the symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and a rash. These symptoms need immediate medical attention because the disease can progress rapidly. Early treatment is important.
• As a general rule, you can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases by washing hands frequently, covering your nose and mouth with tissues when coughing or sneezing, and not sharing eating utensils, toothbrushes, cups, drinking glasses or water bottles.
If you need additional information, please contact the Ocean County Health Department at 732-341-9700, extension 7515. The school is not authorized to release information on the infected student. School administrators have been working closely with public health officials and will continue to monitor the situation intently.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation in the matter.
Joseph A. Pizza
Interim Assistant Superintendent