Bacterial meningitis claims 5-year-old SSES student

The child died shortly after arriving at the hospital on Sunday.

“It’s just a sad day for the school, for the family,” said Donna Lawson, R.N., Health Services coordinator for Wilson County Schools.

She was joined by other school nurses and official from the local and regional Health Departments yesterday at the clinic.

“We’ve been talking to parents and giving medication to those that needed it,” Lawson said, adding the medication, a strong antibiotic called Rifampin, was given to those who came into direct contact with the boy.

Lawson noted that so far, there have been no other reports of any children contracting the disease.A message was sent out to parents on the Wilson County Schools Parent Link phone system informing them about the young student and telling them also about the clinic.

“It’s a very good form of communication,” she said of the Parent Link program.Lawson said a number of parents had already taken their children to their personal physicians and received medication, but even so, she added there was still a good turnout at the clinic.

Lawson noted that Southside held a Water Day event this past Wednesday which involved students who came into contact with Tisdale. She noted that Health Department officials are going back at least seven days to try and determine who Tisdale came in contact with and where he might have contracted the meningitis.

Shelley Walker, communication and marketing coordinator with the Tennessee Department of Health, said “The Department of Health has already provided preventive medication to a number people who were in close contact with the patient, and as part of our routine investigation, health department staff members are working to identify any other people who have had close contact with the patient in the last week and may benefit from preventive treatment.”

Walker noted that this type of meningitis may be spread through sharing drinks or kissing the patient in the few days before he or she becomes ill.

According to information from the TDOH, meningitis is caused by inflammation of the tissues and fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, and it can be caused by bacteria or by viruses.

A fact sheet from the National Meningitis Association noted that meningococcal, or bacterial, meningitis is a rare but sometimes deadly infection. It strikes quickly and can include loss of hearing, brain damage, limb amputations, loss of kidney functions and sometimes death.

Adolescents and young adults are at increased risk for contracting the disease, the NMA said. The majority of such diseases may be prevented by vaccination.

Lawson said symptoms that parents should be looking for in their children are high fevers, vomiting, stiff necks, headaches, exhaustion and rashes. Seek immediate medical attention as the disease can progress rapidly. 

A crew was at Southside Elementary on Monday morning and gave the facility a thorough cleaning. The crew was scheduled to clean the school again after yesterday’s clinic, she said.

Lawson noted there are a number of websites with helpful information regarding meningitis and what symptoms to look for and treatments that are available. Websites include the state Health Department at, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at and the National Meningitis Association at You may also call the NMA at 1-866-FONE-NMA.

Funeral arrangements for Tisdale can be found on the OBITUARY PAGE of this site.

Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at