Student, 14, hospitalized with bacterial meningitis Disease diagnosed in Glenelg boy last week

October 23, 1997|By Erin Texeira and Del Quentin Wilber | Erin Texeira and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A ninth-grader at Glenelg High School was diagnosed last week with bacterial meningitis -- the more deadly of two primary strains of the infection -- and was admitted to intensive care at a Washington hospital Friday, school officials said yesterday.

The student, Steven Musgrove, 14, who plays on the school's soccer team, was listed in good condition early today at Children's Hospital, a hospital official said.

So far, no other students have shown symptoms of the contagious and potentially fatal infection, said Patti Caplan, a school spokeswoman.

This is the only known case of bacterial meningitis -- also called meningococcal -- in Howard County since the beginning of 1996, according to Willa Brown, director of the bureau of personal health at the county health department.

Bacterial meningitis -- an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord -- can prove fatal in as little as 24 hours, Brown said. But in most cases, depending on a patient's resistance, it debilitates patients more slowly, she said.

Another form of meningitis, the viral strain, is not as dangerous, she said.

Bacterial meningitis can be spread through airborne particles or direct contact and can be passed on from someone who shows no signs of illness, Brown said. It often affects people who work in large groups and in stressful situations, such as military trainees or college students taking exams, she said.

An outbreak of the infection occurred in February among members of the lacrosse team at Loyola College in Baltimore, claiming the life of one student.

He was one of three people -- all college students -- who have died of bacterial meningitis in Maryland this year, the most recent a Harford County student who died in May.

Before the end of school Friday, Glenelg Principal Bonnie Daniels warned students to watch for symptoms of the infection, Caplan said. Symptoms include high fever, nausea and vomiting, severe headaches, stiffness and pains in the neck, shoulders and back and skin rash of small bright red spots.

By Sunday, Glenelg High officials had phoned Steven's soccer teammates and all the students who sit near him in classes, Caplan said.

But students at a girls soccer game at Glenelg yesterday said the principal's announcement was vague and did not include the student's name, which left some with questions about whether they might have been exposed to the disease.

"The lady came over the loudspeaker and said someone was very sick, very contagious," said Elizabeth, a freshman who declined to give her last name. "Nobody thought it could be a friend."

The lack of information also worried some parents, who received a letter and information packet from school officials Monday.

"I don't think they informed us enough," said Ron Appler, 45, who was at the school yesterday. He called the health department over the weekend for information.

"If I hadn't called, I would have been dealing with teen-age hearsay all weekend," he said.

Said Caplan, "Our policy is to discuss this with people on a need-to-know basis. We were unable to get the information out in time because we just weren't sure a diagnosis had been made. We didn't want to inflame things unnecessarily."

But Brown advises that all people who might have made contact with a meningitis patient have the fullest access to information about symptoms and dangers.

"Obviously, we would have liked to get the information out right away," she said. "Ideally we would have press releases and people who are able to get the information out."

Steven had been feeling ill the first three days of last week, Brown said. He sought medical treatment Thursday and the diagnosis was made Friday afternoon.

Neither he nor his family could be reached for comment yesterday.

As precautions, school desks were cleaned, and soccer team water bottles replaced over the weekend, Caplan said.

"I really freaked out the worst," said Kristen Menz, 16, a close friend of Steven's, who was playing soccer yesterday. She had a blood test and took preventive medication for two days.

Soccer players on the girl's varsity team practiced with the boys team and shared some of the water jugs, players interviewed yesterday said.

"A lot of people on our [soccer] team had contact with him," Menz said. "We have people dating each other. We practiced together."

Several other students who feared being contaminated took preventive medication called Risantin, Brown said.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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