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Child's symptoms didn't seem unusual

March 24, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Five-year-old Travis Jenkins started to complain of body aches at around 2 p.m. Friday. The child's head ached, he had a fever and his stomach was upset.

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He was too tired to play his favorite Sony PlayStation video game.

Around 11 p.m., Travis' neck started to hurt and he developed a rash on his left leg, said his father, Showalter Jenkins of Hagerstown.

Travis died early Saturday at Washington County Hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Although initial tests were negative, health officials believe the child may have died of meningitis.

Devastated by the loss of their only child, Showalter said he and his wife, Mary, want the public to know the warning signs of the potentially deadly disease.

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"Looking back, all the pains were to the left side of his body," Jenkins said.

Initial test results from the Washington County Health Department came back negative for the disease, but further tests were being done, according to Dr. Robert Parker, county health officer.

Jenkins said he expects to learn the cause of his son's death today.

Jenkins said he didn't find his son's symptoms unusual because they seemed similar to those of other childhood ailments.

Travis had suffered from ear infections - most recently about two weeks ago, he said.

"We thought we knocked it out. It was giving him a hard time," he said.

His son's appetite decreased and he had lost weight, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said he believes that by the time Travis exhibited symptoms on Friday, it may have been too late to save his life.

"Once something like that attacks and has an incubation period, there's almost nothing you can do," he said.

Meningitis, caused by the 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease can be transmitted by the passing of nasal secretions.

Jenkins urged parents not to take for granted any aches and pains reported by their children. Take note of repetitive ailments and pay attention to results of blood tests, he said.

Travis' mother, Mary Jenkins, runs Truth for Youth, a day-care center out of the family's Rock Hill Road home.

Five other children who attended the school and adults who came in contact with Travis have received powerful antibiotics as a preventive measure, said Showalter Jenkins.

Anyone who may have come in contact with the child within the past 10 days should be tested, he said.

"I think it's very serious. It could cause an epidemic. We should have heard about this weeks ago," Jenkins said.

In February, a Frostburg State University student died of meningitis in Frostburg, Md.

Health officials have said if the case is confirmed as meningitis, it would be the same organism that caused the death of the Frostburg State student.

Jenkins said that he will always miss his little boy, whose favorite activities were going out for won-ton soup with his grandmother and helping his father work on cars.

"He was so good and sweet. Everybody was fond of him," he said.

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