Curley student diagnosed with meningitis

College that senior visited, as well as Balto. school, take precautionary steps

April 20, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

A prayer went out over the public address system at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore yesterday for a senior who has contracted bacterial meningitis. Officials also sent letters home, alerting parents of the student's illness.

Students and members of the staff and faculty at Western Maryland College in Westminster were also notified because the student, Michael Petr, stayed there overnight April 9 after touring the college with plans of possibly enrolling in the fall. More than 80 people at the college have visited the campus health center over the past three days to receive antibiotics.

"Of course, our greatest concern was for the student and his family and his well-being," said the Rev. Donald Grzymski, president of the 550-student Catholic boys' high school in Baltimore. "And our secondary concern was to make sure to take any precautions we need to prevent any other illnesses."

Petr is on the lacrosse team, so members of the team, along with his closer friends, were given oral antibiotics Saturday, Grzymski said. The illness has not been diagnosed in any other students, and none has reported having symptoms of the infection, Grzymski said.

Bacterial meningitis, an infection in spinal cord fluids, can result in brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities or death. It can be spread through respiratory and throat secretions -- coughing, kissing or sharing a drinking glass, for example.

An unidentified third-grader at Edgewood Elementary in West Baltimore died of the infection April 5, and an Annapolis High School junior, Cara Margaret Petrini, contracted the infection and died April 12.

"We are not seeing a sporadic rash within the city," said David Rose, assistant commissioner for communicable diseases and epidemiology for the Baltimore City Health Department. "There is no risk to those outside [the student's] immediate contact."

Rose advised the students' classmates to monitor their health and contact a doctor if they come down with the infection's symptoms, which include high fever, headache and a stiff neck.

"It was a traumatic moment for his family and for him, but they have found a lot of support in friends and family, and we're praying for them," Grzymski said.

Petr is being treated at Franklin Square Hospital Center, and Grzymski said his condition is improving.

Petr attended a party in Western Maryland's Blanche Ward Hall, spent the night in Daniel MacLea Hall and attended a picnic with the soccer team the next day.

"I was shocked. I really didn't know what to think. I was scared," said Tom Long, a freshman who plays on WMC's soccer team. "My mom was really worried, and my dad was, too. But after they realized there was a low chance of getting it and that I had taken antibiotics, they eased up on everything."

Pub Date: 4/20/99

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