By IVY HERRON
On Friday, parents and caregivers of children attending North Clay Middle School received a letter from Clay County's school nurse and public health nurse about a confirmed case of viral (aseptic) meningitis at the school.
Clay County School Nurse Lynn Stoelting said the letter was for parents' information and not intended to cause panic.
"We didn't want to panic parents but inform them so they wouldn't ignore possible symptoms," Stoelting said. "With it being a weekend, we felt it was important to send the letter home to parents so they would know the signs and symptoms in case they needed to seek medical attention."
Health officials also advise the public to remain calm.
"Everyone should use common sense and not panic, said an administrative spokesperson at St. Vincent Hospital. "Officials at the hospital have gone through the proper channels with the local and state health departments. Lab test results are pending, but the attending physician expects the patient to make a complete recovery."
Viral (aseptic) meningitis is generally less severe with symptoms lasting 7 to 10 days, usually resolving without specific treatment in many cases, with the patient making a complete recovery.
Group A Streptococcus comprises a number of strains of bacteria that can produce a wide range of diseases. Some, like "strep throat," Scarlet Fever and impetigo, are quite common and easily treated.
According to the National Meningitis Association, it remains a mystery to researchers why the disease attacks some while leaving the general population unaffected.
Babies, children and young adults are at the highest risk for contracting the disease which occurs more often in the late summers and early fall.
Diagnosis of the disease takes 24 hours for a culture test to develop. Aggressive use of penicillin and antibiotics are used for treatment of the victim, while close contacts may be provided with an oral antibiotic to help reduce the probability of spreading the disease.
Signs and symptoms include: fever, headache, stiff neck, red rash, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting.
An ER physician on staff at St. Vincent Clay Hospital provided tips for concerned parents of North Clay Middle School students and are confused about what to do.
If a child is experiencing a fever, headache and stiff neck without any other flu symptoms like a cough, runny nose and or diarrhea, the doctor recommends contact with a health care provider immediately.
The notice coming on a weekend may mean a family cannot contact their family physician and have to go to the hospital.
Legally, staff members can not provide medical information or treatment advice over the phone, according to officials at St. Vincent Hospital.
If a parent is bringing a child for treatment at the hospital they will need to provide a medical history of the child, the types of medication they are taking, including over-the-counter medication and any allergy information.