Viral meningitis cases reported at Dawson-Bryant schools

Published 10:19 am Friday, September 16, 2011

An outbreak of viral meningitis has been reported at a local school district.

Dawson-Bryant Local Schools has had 10 reported cases of the virus within the last week, Superintendent Dennis Decamp said.

The outbreak started last Wednesday when three high school football players were diagnosed, DeCamp said.

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He added that the virus is spread through bodily fluids, much like a common cold. The school district alerted parents and reinforced to athletes that they shouldn’t share water bottles, Decamp said.

Decamp stressed that the outbreak is of viral meningitis, not bacterial meningitis.

Viral meningitis differs from bacterial meningitis in that it is less severe and generally clears up without treatment, according to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bacterial meningitis can cause brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities. Viral meningitis is serious but rarely fatal in people with normal immune systems, according to the CDC.

“I don’t know anyone who died of viral meningitis. If we had 10 kids with influenza, would we be panicking?” Decamp said.

Even still, the school district has taken steps to see that the virus is not spread. The high school’s locker room has been disinfected and custodians have upgraded their disinfectant used to clean, Decamp said.

“My hat’s off to (the custodians) for their efforts,” he said.

At football games, the team has moved away from using water bottles and is instead using paper cups, he said.

The 10 cases have been at the elementary, middle and high school. Five of the 10 students diagnosed are attending school, Decamp said, noting that the severity of those five students must be less. A local physician has diagnosed a total of 30 cases locally, Decamp said.

Decamp said he appreciates the support of the Lawrence County Health Department in this situation. He encouraged the students to practice good hygiene.

“We will do nothing that will put our students in danger,” Decamp said.