ELKHART, Ind. — Following the death of a second-grade Woodland Elementary student Wednesday, families of children who attend the school received a letter describing bacterial meningitis and its signs and symptoms.

The letter was created by school officials and the Elkhart County Health Department and explained that they were waiting for official word on the cause of the students death, but felt the families should be aware.

The student had enrolled at Woodland only last week.

“We cannot confirm or deny that the student’s death was caused by bacterial meningitis due to HIPPA regulations,” explained manager of nursing services for Elkhart County Health Department Peg Ramey.

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portablility and Accountability Act) requires privacy protection of patient’s health information.

Ramey said the department assisted the school in creating the letter to let parents know that “a possible” exposure had taken place. The letter included signs and symptoms, as well as transmission modes.

“Bacterial meningitis is not easily spread in a school setting,” Ramey said, “There has to be close contact with the infected person’s saliva.”

Ramey added that just because students may have shared the same classroom doesn’t mean an infection is imminent.

“Members of the same household, best buds or maybe someone who spent the night should be treated,” Ramey said.

Typically, Ramey said, Elkhart County sees two or three cases of bacterial meningitis per year. The greatest risk is to young adults in dorm rooms or barracks who are not sleeping or eating well.

“Medication is very effective when diagnosed early,” Ramey said.

Health Department officials will investigate the case if a diagnosis is reported, along with the Indiana State Department of Health’s epidemiologist to determine who will need to be notified and treated.

Ramey said the symptoms for bacterial meningitis are: Sudden fever, stiff neck, red rash, nausea and vomiting.

“If anyone has concerns about exposure or infection, they should talk to their own physician immediately, but it is not easily spread in a school setting,” she said.

Respond: (574) 533-2151, ext. 320


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