Chesapeake High senior treated for meningitis

No connection, officials say, with recent fatal case

school takes precautions

April 27, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Travis Blake, a senior at Chesapeake High School, was in critical condition last night at North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie with bacterial meningitis, hospital officials said.

His illness comes two weeks after an Annapolis High School junior died of the disease, but county health department officials say that there is no connection between the two cases.

"We're dealing with a different strain of the organism," said Frances Phillips, the county's chief health officer. "It is not related whatsoever to the other case in Annapolis."

Cara Margaret Petrini, 16, died of the disease April 10.

Blake is a standout center on the school's basketball team with a scoring average of 22.3 points a game. At 6-foot-4-inches, he is known for his jumping ability.

Phillips said she learned of Blake's case about 8 a.m. yesterday, when his doctor contacted the health department.

Health officials immediately alerted the staff at Chesapeake High, and they began interviewing the student's family members and close friends.

"We have a team of health nurses who worked very closely with the school system all day with the principal to locate those students who might be contacts," Phillips said.

Nurses identified 10 students who may have been exposed to the disease, which is spread through direct contact with saliva, such as eating and drinking utensils, sharing a cigarette or kissing, said Gene Saderholm, county health department program director for school health services.

School nurses called their students' parents to recommend that they see their family doctors to determine whether they should be given antibiotics, Saderholm said.

Also, nurses sent home letters with every Chesapeake High student, informing parents that a student had been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. The letter described symptoms of the illness, including high fever, nausea and vomiting, severe headache, stiffness and pains in the neck, shoulders and back and a bright red rash of spots.

"Meningitis is not a highly contagious disease," said Phillips. "It requires direct contact either through saliva or nasal secretions. It is not a disease that is airborne, and it's not spread by being in the same classroom or the same school bus" as an infected person.

Pub Date: 4/27/99

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