A student at a D.C. elementary school has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, prompting officials to alert parents of the diagnosis and urge them to have their children evaluated for the disease.
An epidemiologist at the District’s Department of Health sent a letter Friday to parents whose children attend Burrville Elementary School in Northeast Washington and had been in contact with the infected student.
Bacterial meningitis is a contagious and potentially deadly bacterial infection that leads to inflammation of the tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord.
“Exposed persons can prevent themselves from getting sick by taking an antibiotic, which is most effective if it is started as soon as possible after their exposure,” the letter to Burrville families read. “Please take your child to their healthcare provider for an evaluation for this medication as soon as possible, along with this letter.”
This is the District’s third case of bacterial meningitis this year, according to the Health Department. The two other patients were adults. One person died.
The adults did not live on college campuses, where students often reside in tight quarters and are more susceptible to contracting the infection.
The form of meningitis contracted by the Burrville student is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, according to the D.C. Health Department. Symptoms typically develop three to seven days after exposure and can include headaches, back and neck pain, high fevers and nausea.
The infection can be spread through saliva or mucus.
Students in D.C. public schools must receive a meningitis vaccine when they enter sixth grade.
Burrville’s assistant principal, Chunita Pilgrim, sent another letter Monday to families at the school informing them that custodians cleaned affected classrooms in adherence to strict guidelines from the city’s health agency.
She also attached a fact sheet about the bacterial infection.
“The health of our school community is paramount,” Pilgrim wrote, “and we send positive thoughts of recovery to our student.”