Preliminary tests negative for meningitis

March 23, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Preliminary blood tests came back negative for meningitis Monday in the death of a 5-year-old Washington County child, but health officials aren't taking any chances.

"We will have to wait now for other lab results or a possible autopsy to be sure," said Dr. Robert Parker, health officer for the Washington County Health Department.

Meanwhile, health officials have advised families of children who attended day care and pre-school with the child to seek medical advice and possible treatment.

Parker said meningitis is most commonly transmitted by passing of nasal secretions, which is a likely situation with children of young ages in preschool or day-care settings.


"This bacteria is carried by many people in their bodies but they don't usually get sick," Parker said. Outbreaks can occur when people are in close proximity.

Parker said all who had close contact with the child were advised to see their physicians for antibiotic protection or to go to the Washington County Hospital emergency room, which has a supply of antibiotics on hand.

Parker said if the case is confirmed as meningitis, it is the same organism that caused the death of a Frostburg State University student in February.

"The bacteria was the same but that student was killed by a bloodstream infection - it was a different mechanism," Parker said.

Meningitis, caused by meningococcus bacteria, is an inflammation of tissue lining the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, severe headaches and neck pain.

About 4 percent of people exposed to the bacteria develop symptoms, and about 10 percent of those who develop symptoms die, even with proper medical care, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The health department wouldn't release the child's name, address, day care or preschool.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

The Herald-Mail Articles