|Officials stress immunization|
|Tuesday, October 2, 2012|
By PATRICK HALL
Following the death of a student at West Elementary School due to bacterial meningitis, school officials stressed that there is no danger to other students and urged everyone to “err on the side of caution” and have their children properly immunized.
Sam McLeod, 9, died Sept. 28 from a non-contagious form of bacterial meningitis and since then school officials have taken every precaution to ensure the safety of other students and faculty at West Elementary.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Mike Davis. “The mother actually works for us, she is a teacher at Wilson Central High School, and our hearts go out to the family and our school family during this time.”
A funeral was held for McLeod on Monday.
Davis said other students were in no danger as the form of meningitis contracted by McLeod is reportedly not transmissible to another person. However, following standard procedure, Davis said the school and bus that McLeod rode to school, have been thoroughly cleaned.
“Our cleaning service went through and did a thorough cleaning of the school and the bus,” Davis said. “We have a standard procedure we go through in these situations.”
Davis said school system officials were in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, about the case, but noted according to medical professionals and the CDC, the form of meningitis that McLeod had is not contagious.
“We would just like to err on the side of caution,” Davis said. “According to health professionals, this illness did not originate at the school.”
Woody McMillin, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health, said there are various forms of meningitis, and some are contagious through close contact, but others cannot be passed from person-to-person.
“Close proximity is a factor in some meningitis cases,” McMillin said.
McMillin noted that meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The disease may be contracted through bacterial or viral infections and in more rare cases, through certain medications.
McMillin said symptoms of meningitis include high fever, long-lasting headaches, neck stiffness and nausea. He said the disease can be treated if diagnosed quickly but can also be fatal. There is a focus for children to get the meningitis vaccination early, and McMillin said it can’t hurt for teenagers to get a booster shot and that it may even be required before attending some colleges.
“The best preventative measure is to get the vaccination,” he said. “Some universities that require freshman to live on-campus require students to get the vaccination.”
State Health Department officials announced Monday that a breakout of meningitis cases in Nashville resulted in 12 people contracting a fungal form of the disease. McMillin said Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center was voluntarily shut down while the department and the CDC investigate.
McMillin said the death of McLeod was in no way related to the outbreak in Nashville, pointing out the 12 patients from Saint Thomas contracted the disease from a medical epidural injection. Two of the patients reportedly died as a result of the disease.
“If you didn’t have a lumbar epidural steroid injection between July 30 and Sept. 20, you don’t have to worry about this outbreak,” McMillin said.
Also, four families self-reported suspected cases of viral meningitis in students at Oak View Elementary School in Franklin. The Williamson County School System has reportedly disinfected the school and all buses that transport children to and from the facility.
Davis said parents should be sure their children are properly immunized and are up to date on all vaccinations. In addition to the meningitis vaccination, Davis said parents should have their children get flu shots and other immunizations just in case.
“It is extremely important for kids to practice good hygiene,” Davis said.
He noted parents should stress that children should always wash their hands after using the bathroom, not eating or drinking after others and noted that each classroom in Wilson County schools have antibacterial hand sanitizer for students and faculty.