North Penn 4th grader has meningitis

LANSDALE, PA.; December 10, 2008

Parents and students at Knapp Elementary School in Lansdale, Pa., got the news today through the school's emergency messaging system that a 4th grader ther is now in the hospital with bacterial meningitis.

Renata Rzepka, a parent, told Action News, "I worry what will happen with other kids at the school, and staff."

The Montgomery County Health Department is now working with the school staff to identify other students who may be at risk.

Bacterial meningitis is a potentially deadly infection that's spread through close contact.

Michael Baysinger, M.P.H., a communicable disease specialist, says, "If you're in a classroom just sitting next to someone, that's not considered close contact. But if you share drinks, utensils, or if someone sneezes directly on you, that's considered close social contact."

Health officials say students who have that close contact with the infected student will be asked to see their doctor for preventive medication.

Parents should also be on the lookout for symptoms.

Baysinger, "A clear cut sign of this type of meningitis is your neck is stiff, you have a headache so bad you can't even move your neck."

School officials say the student was last at school on December 5th.

He first got sick on December 7th, and is now at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Christine Liberaski, a spokesperson for the North Penn School District, told Action News, "The principal spoke with the person today, and he was glad to hear from the principal and that's a good sign."

For more information on the case, including the symptoms of a meningococcal infection, click here<\a>.