FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Students and staff at St. Joseph Central Elementary School got free preventative antibiotics Tuesday after someone who was “present” in the building was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
In a letter sent home with students Monday, The Fort Wayne Allen County Department of Health told parents a case of meningococcal disease was found “in someone who was present” at the school. It’s not clear if that person was a student, staffer or visitor. A source told NewsChannel 15 that the infected person was a staff member and not a student.
“We know there’s been an exposure, but the risk [of other people being infected] is probably very low,” Mindy Waldron, the health department administrator, said.
The health department said the case is under medical supervision and “no longer present at the school at this time,” according to the letter.
Meningitis is an inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes, often rooted in an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can result in a bloodstream infection that leads to bleeding under the skin, the health department said.
Only about 1,000-2,600 people in the U.S. get the potentially life-threatening disease each year, the health department said. This is the first case of meningitis in Allen County in 2015. There were no cases in 2014 or 2013. There were two cases in Allen County in 2012, one case is 2011 and two cases in 2010.
The health department said in the letter to parents that someone must have direct contact with the saliva of a person infected with meningitis during a seven-day period before the onset of the illness and until that person is deemed noninfectious in order to become infected themselves. Meningitis is not spread through casual contact, the health department said.
Tuesday around 500 students and staff could get free preventative antibiotics at the school. The health department said parents who could not attend the clinic should call the school nurse at (260) 467-6105 to make alternate arraignments.
“There is no community concern. It was pretty localized and we have reached out to people in close contact with them to make sure they’ve been appropriately treated,” Waldron said. “This type of step of taking an antibiotic to a large group of folks is out of an abundance of caution.”
A hotline has also been established by the health department to address questions or concerns at (260) 449-4499. It is available beginning Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., the health department said.
The health department said that while the case was contained, parents should be on the look-out for signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease, including sudden fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and sometimes a rash. If any of those signs should appear, the child should be seen by a physician immediately for evaluation, the health department said.
“The primary people who tend to have outbreaks of bacterial meningitis are adolescents and college-age kids. Those are the folks we focus on in terms of giving [vaccines],” Dr. Scott Stienecker, the medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention for Parkview Health, said. “The reason we typically don’t vaccinate young children is it’s another set of shots and it lasts five years or so and they’d have to get another booster around the 12th grade before college.”