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San Diego Student Diagnosed With Meningitidis Infection

A first-grade student at Freese Elementary Arts and Culture Magnet School was diagnosed with an infection caused by meningococcal bacteria, San Diego County health officials said today.

Neisseria meningitidis can infect the blood and the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord, which could result in serious illness or death in children and adults, according to the county Health and Human Services Agencies.

The infected student's last day of school was Nov. 9 and the time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two and 10 days. HHSA officials notified those who had close contact with the child, including five classmates, that they should receive antibiotics to prevent a possible infection.

"Meningococcal disease is not spread through casual contact,'' County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. "It is spread through close contact with the infected individual and the risk to those who are not in close, direct contact is minimal.''

The parents of other students were advised that preventative antibiotics were not recommended, but to keep an eye out for symptoms and make sure children were vaccinated against the disease.

Wooten said parents should be alert for any symptoms in their children that could be caused by the meningococcal bacteria. Symptoms include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck and/or a rash that does not blanch under pressure.

Anyone who was potentially exposed and develops symptoms should contact a healthcare provider or emergency room immediately for evaluation, according to the HHSA.

A vaccine can prevent certain strains of meningococcal disease and is routinely recommended for those 11 to 18 years old.