Schoolgirl, 12, dies of meningitis

No worry of contagion, city health official says

January 13, 2002|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

A 12-year-old Northwest Baltimore girl has died of a form of bacterial meningitis that is not a contagious threat, the city's health commissioner said yesterday.

Dr. Peter L. Beilenson said the girl, a sixth-grader at Fallstaff Middle School, became ill Tuesday and died Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The girl, whom authorities have not identified, had pneumococcal meningitis.

"It is caused by the strep pneumonia bacteria," Beilenson said. It rarely causes meningitis in kids older than 2 or adults younger than 65, he said.

Beilenson said pupils at Fallstaff do not need to take antibiotics as a precaution. He recommended that concerned parents consult their pediatrician or clinic.

"It's a form of meningitis that the kids in the classroom and in the school don't need to worry about," Beilenson said.

The school sent a Health Department letter home with children Friday explaining what had happened to the girl and informing parents that they did not need to get preventive antibiotics.

Schools spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt said the system is following standard procedure with the letter. Also standard procedure is counseling that will be offered tomorrow at the school by psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors, she said.

"We have mobilized a crisis team," Pyatt said. "They will be at the school Monday to address any situations in terms of children who are experiencing difficulty with notification of the student's passing."

The pneumococcal strain is different from meningococcal meningitis, which has struck college students in Maryland in the past and can be spread by close contact, such as kissing. In such cases, unlike this incident, health officials often recommend antibiotics as a precaution for roommates, teammates and others who have come in close contact with a person carrying the infection.

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