Public Health Notice

The following message was sent to the parents of Washington Elementary students earlier this evening.

"Hello, this is Principal Sheri Jensen at Washington Elementary School. We were informed by Public Health that one of our students who attended school on Wednesday and Thursday has Neisseria meningitidis, which is a form of bacterial meningitis.

The families of all students who may have been exposed have been personally contacted by the school and by Public Health. We are calling to relay Public Health’s assurance that they have contacted all families of students at risk of infection.

An information sheet is posted to the District website (posted below).  A copy will be coming home with your child tomorrow."

What is meningitis?
Meningitis is a rare infection that affects the delicate membranes -- called meninges -- that cover the brain and spinal cord. There are several types of this disease, including bacterial, viral, and fungal.

Why is meningococcal disease so serious?
Also known as meningitis, meningococcal disease is a rare but dangerous bacterial infection of the blood or brain meninges. Even in healthy people, the disease can develop quickly and become life threatening. Lifelong complications can occur, including loss of a limb, hearing loss, and brain damage.

How is meningococcal disease spread?
People spread meningococcal bacteria to other people by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria. Fortunately, these germs are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or the flu. People do not catch this disease through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been.

What are the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease?
At first, meningococcal disease may feel like the flu. However, the following symptoms should be addressed immediately to avoid potentially serious complications;

• Severe headache • Sensitivity of eyes to light
• High fever • Confusion
• Stiff neck • Rash
• Nausea and vomiting • Seizures

How is meningococcal disease treated?
Doctors treat meningococcal disease with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important. If the disease is suspected, see your provider or go to an emergency room.

Why does my child need an antibiotic if he’s not sick?
Sometimes the bacteria spread to people who have had close or lengthy contact with a patient with meningococcal disease. Close contacts of someone with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to help prevent them from getting the disease. Health departments investigate each case of meningococcal disease to identify all close contacts. Humboldt County Public Health has begun contacting those close contacts to make sure they receive an appropriate preventive antibiotic.
This does not mean that the contacts have the disease; it is to prevent it. People who are not a close contact of a patient with meningococcal disease do not need a preventive antibiotic.

How can meningococcal disease be prevented?
A vaccine against four types of the meningococcal bacteria is recommended routinely for 11-12 year olds, adolescents entering high school or 15 years of age, college freshman living in dorms, and other high-risk persons. Teens need a booster shot when they are 16 years old to stay protected when they are at highest risk. Older teens who didn’t get the shot should talk to their doctor about getting it especially if they are about to move into a college dorm or go into the military. Other people at high-risk for meningococcal disease, including children and adults with certain medical conditions, may also need to get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor.

Where can I learn more?
Mayo Clinic -
Centers for Disease Control -