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Officials calm parents over meningitis case

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

The Apalachicola Bay Charter School, together with the county health department, have moved quickly to address the occurrence of a case of viral meningitis in one of the students, and remind the community there is no cause for alarm.

“The student is home and doing much better,” said Principal Chimene Johnson. “Our notification to parents was to proactively inform (them) of this virus, like any other illness concerns such as flu or strep.”

Johnson said unlike bacterial meningitis there is no reporting requirement for the viral strain. She also said there was no need to identify the name of the student, since parental reponse advice would apply to all students, regardless of classroom, and cleaning practices to all areas of the school.

“We provided intervention tips for parents on how to lower chances for infection,” she said. “The school cleans classrooms, bathrooms, and common areas daily. Our custodians continue to go above and beyond to disinfect the facility.”

She said school policy pertaining to all illnesses, including the more common maladies of flu and strep, is that students be free of fever for 24 hours without medication, and that they be vomit free for 24 hours.

After sending out the notice to parents Sunday, once school officials knew the nature of the illness, “I think we probably had a few students out on Monday, and most were in class Tuesday,” Johnson said. “There may have been parents who felt they had to give it a day, I’m not sure.”

She also noted that even if healthy students come in contact with the virus, they likely will not develop meningitis. “That’s what gave us comfort in knowing this is not something that’s hugely serious,” she said.

In a news release Tuesday from the Florida Department of Health in Franklin County, public information officer Deanna Simmons wrote that “There is no cluster or outbreak and the Florida Department of Health does not recommend any building closures related to this situation.”

The release said symptoms of viral meningitis include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to bright light, sleepiness or trouble waking up, nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite. Symptoms usually last seven to 10 days and people with normal immune systems usually recover completely.

Much like flu prevention tips, there are simple steps that help lower your chances of becoming infected with or spreading viruses.

Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers, using the toilet, or coughing or blowing your nose;

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and close contact with people who are sick.

Clean highly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs or the TV remote control, with soap and water and then disinfect them with a dilute solution of chlorine-containing bleach;

Avoid sharing items such as a drinking glass, water bottles, mouth guards, eating utensils, lipstick, or other such items that come into contact with saliva.

Make sure you and your child are vaccinated. Vaccinations included in the childhood vaccination schedule can protect children against some diseases that can lead to viral meningitis. These include vaccines against measles and mumps (MMR vaccine) and chickenpox (varicella-zoster vaccine).

If you have questions about viral meningitis, call the department for more info at 653-2111.