EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 4, 2012

Londonderry High faculty member contracts viral meningitis

Faculty member fighting illness

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — A Londonderry High School employee has contracted viral meningitis, the district’s fourth case in two years.

But school and state public health officials say parents, students and staff should not be alarmed.

“The individual is doing well,” Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said of the faculty member. “We expect that person to be back soon.”

Greenberg said an assistant principal notified him over the weekend and parents were contacted by email or letter yesterday.

Greenberg would not identify the faculty member or say if it was a teacher.

He did say, “The person does not come in contact with that many kids.”

Viral meningitis is not highly contagious and rarely fatal, according to Beth Daly, chief of infectious disease surveillance for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Viral meningitis is much less serious than bacterial or fungal meningitis, she said. An outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to a Massachusetts pharmacy has sickened more than 500 people in 19 states, killing three dozen.

A Londonderry High student, 16-year-old Rebecca Tenney, died from complications of the virus in September 2010, only a week and half after experiencing flu-like symptoms.

There are no antibiotics available to fight viral meningitis, which usually runs its course, Daly said.

She said she learned of the Londonderry case through the media; the school district is not required to report cases of viral meningitis to the state.

Her office contacted the school district as a precaution. She said there is no connection between the four cases reported in Londonderry since 2010. Three involved school district employees.

Since there is no obligation to report viral meningitis to the state, Daly said it’s hard to say how often the virus is contracted. Four cases in one school district over two years is not common, but not unusual, she said.

“We are not alarmed by this particular situation,” Daly said. “There is no outbreak currently at this high school.”

Symptoms can include fever, vomiting, nausea, headaches, fatigue, a stiff neck, confusion and sensitivity to light, Daly said. Symptoms can last a week to 10 days, she said.

The virus can be transmitted through saliva, Daly said. She recommends frequent hand washing and not sharing food or personal items, including eating utensils.

Greenberg said the district’s daily sanitizing of the school, including water fountains and bathrooms, is expected to prevent other people from contracting the virus.

Shortly after Tenney’s death shook the school district two years ago, an unidentified teacher at North and South Elementary Schools contracted viral meningitis in 2011, but recovered.

A Londonderry High staff member was diagnosed with viral meningitis two months ago and has also recovered, Greenberg said.