Student at Westlake HS has possible case of meningitis

Student at Westlake HS has possible case of meningitis
Westlake school officials say they're cleaning the high school as a precaution. (Source: WOIO)
Westlake school officials say they're cleaning the high school as a precaution. (Source: WOIO)

WESTLAKE, OH (WOIO) - A student at Westlake High School is being treated for a potential case of meningococcal disease, according to a letter sent home to parents.

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can only be transmitted by close prolonged contact with respiratory secretions of infected individuals.

This includes kissing, drinking from the same beverage container, or sharing eating utensils.

This disease cannot be transmitted by casual contact among students who may have attended the same classes as the student. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health is in contact with the family to identify potential at-risk students. These individuals will be notified if necessary and receive the recommended course of therapy.

While special cleaning procedures are not indicated by health officials, Westlake High School is implementing a precautionary cleaning protocol throughout the building.

Bacterial meningitis is more severe than viral meningitis, but doctors say quick treatment can help stop its spread.

"In the Cleveland area it's unusual to see children with vaccine-preventable meningitis," said Dr. Lolita McDavid, the medical director of child advocacy and protection at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.

She says the key with bacterial meningitis is to catch it early and get the patient started on antibiotics right away.

"It's an inflammation of the covering of the brain and the spinal cord, covering the spinal cord," Dr. McDavid said.

The CDC reports 600 to 1,000 Americans contract bacterial meningitis every year. It's a serious disease that can kill you.

Even with antibiotics, officials say 10 to 15 out of 100 people infected with bacterial meningitis die.

Survivors can have long term disabilities like loss of limbs, deafness or brain damage.

We asked Dr. McDavid what symptoms people should look for.

She says symptoms usually show up in three to seven days and include nausea, vomiting, photophobia, headaches, fever and a stiff neck. Bacterial meningitis can spread through kissing, sharing drinks or eating utensils. It can't be transferred through casual contact.

"The vaccine is on the market, so get your child immunized and he should be okay," Dr. McDavid said.

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