Sikeston parents urged to look out for bacterial meningitis symptoms

Sunday, May 30, 2010

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Parents are being cautioned to be aware of the dangers of bacterial meningitis and to be on the lookout for the symptoms.

A student at the Sikeston Seventh and Eighth Grade Center is being treated for the disease, according to local health officials.

Sikeston superintendent Steve Borgsmiller said the school district was notified of the diagnosis late Monday afternoon. The district sent letters to those households where people may have come in contact with the child.

Karen Evans, a registered nurse with the Scott County Health Department, is working with the school system to get the word out about the symptoms and the dangers of bacterial meningitis.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is the result of an inflammation caused by bacteria and may result in brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Evans said the disease can be spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing or kissing. Developing the disease through secondary contact with an infected individual is rare, she said. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact, she said.

"Anytime you have a case of bacterial meningitis, it is very, very serious," said Evans. However, she said, it is also very treatable and, with recent vaccines, even preventable.

She said those in close contact with the infected student have already been treated appropriately.

But health officials are continuing to urge parents to watch their children for signs of bacterial meningitis. Symptoms include fever, rash, headache, stiff neck, light sensitivity or other unusual symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, confusion and sleepiness.

For infants, meningitis may be hard to detect, she said. While symptoms include fever, headache and neck stiffness, parents may notice the child is slow or inactive, irritable or feeding poorly.

According to Evans, the symptoms can develop over several hours or may take one to two days.

Because the child in the Sikeston school system was treated promptly, the prognosis for recovery is very good, Evans said.

"We don't want the public to panic but to be aware," she said. "Parents should please watch their child for symptoms and seek medical care if symptoms should develop. Bacterial meningitis is treatable with early detection."

For information about vaccinations to prevent meningococcal meningitis, contact your local physician or the Scott County Health Department at 471-4044.

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