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February 2, 2013

Windham parents alerted to suspected meningitis case

WINDHAM — State health officials are investigating a suspected case of bacterial meningitis at Windham High School.

Principal Tom Murphy notified parents yesterday.

“A student at Windham High School is suspected of having meningococcal meningitis. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is assisting the school with this situation and helping to make recommendations,” Murphy told parents in a memo.

Chris Adamski, chief of the state’s bureau of infectious disease control, said late yesterday DHHS is still investigating.

“We are working on this today,” Adamski said. “We are in contact with individuals who may have had contact with this person.”

She was unsure whether the male student was hospitalized. Murphy told parents the school could not release his identity.

Meningitis is a serious, potentially life threatening illness.

The disease, which causes an infection of the lining around the brain and spinal cord, is rare. New Hampshire sees a dozen or fewer cases each year.

Symptoms include fever, headache, abnormal tiredness, neck pain or stiffness, and a rash with fine freckles or purple splotches.

Antibiotics are used to treat the disease. The bacteria are spread by close contact with a person’s saliva, such as sharing eating utensils, water bottles or kissing.

“Casual contact such as being in the same class with the ill person does not pose increased risk,” Murphy told parents.

It’s more likely to spread among people in the same house or close friends.

Just because students might be in the same class with the ailing student, doesn’t mean they will get sick.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean there is any risk to you,” Adamski said.

New Hampshire has had meningitis fatalities, though Adamski said it has been several years since someone died in the Granite State from the disease.

“The Department of Health and Human Services will be contacting the close contacts directly, based on information provided by the school, and will be recommending (antibiotic) preventative treatment for them,” Murphy said.

People with questions can contact DHHS during business hours at 1-800-852-3345, Ext. 4496, or, on weekends and evenings at 1-800-852-3345 or 271-5300. Ask to speak with the public health nurse.

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