Spring health: case of viral meningitis appears in upper school

March 3, 2016

An upper school student developed a case of viral meningitis towards the end of break and was admitted to the hospital. The school is now outside of the incubation period, so the virus is perceived to no longer be present on campus.

“We’re past the incubation period, so since no one else has developed viral meningitis, [it’s] considered a closed case,” Director of Health Services Debra Nott said. “The virus did not spread to anyone else or cause anyone else to get viral meningitis and enough days have passed that we’re outside the window of exposure.”

The window of exposure refers to the amount of time that the has to pass without any new cases of the virus occurring for a location to be deemed safe. It can range anywhere from two to ten days, depending on the virus in question.

The case at the upper school follows a case of meningitis at the University of Santa Clara where two students contracted bacterial meningitis of the Serogroup B type.

“The University of Santa Clara made the smart decision to offer free Serogroup B meningitis immunizations to all students,” Nott said. “It looked to me from the news coverage that quite a few [students] were taking advantage of that.”

Meningitis involves an inflammation of the protective covering around the brain and the spinal cord as a result of the presence of bacteria or a virus in the cerebral spinal fluid that surrounds the brain and fills the spinal tube. Viral meningitis is not an illness that can be caught on its own, like bacterial meningitis, but a complication of another virus, such as one of the viruses that cause chicken pox, measles, mumps, or the flu. The enterovirus that causes measles can cause a form of meningitis, which is particularly deadly.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, “if you have close contact with a person who has viral meningitis, you may become infected with the virus that made that person sick. However, you are not likely to develop meningitis as a complication of the illness.”

“If you’ve had all your shots, then you are immune to most of the things that cause bacterial meningitis and some of the things that can cause viral meningitis,” Nott said, referring to the immunization shots that students are required and recommended to take before being able to attend school.

The upper school student who contracted the virus is currently recovering.

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