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School officials warn of meningitis

by Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer

Carson City school officials are warning parents to keep their children home from school today if they exhibit flu-like symptoms. It may be meningitis.

Five cases of the viral strain of the disease have been reported at Fremont Elementary, the district’s only year-round school, along with about 20 other children throughout Carson City, according to the State Health Department.

“We don’t think we have an epidemic here,” said Superintendent Mary Pierczynski. “We’re just trying to be cautious and alert parents to the cases we’ve had. We’re trying to take care of the little ones.”

Principals from each elementary school will send fliers home with their students Thursday, warning parents of symptoms and recommended actions.

“If the child has symptoms, they should be taken to the family doctor,” Pierczynski said. “If they have it, children should stay home for about seven days.”

The flier hastens to distinguish that the viral form of the illness should not be confused with the bacterial strain, which is far more serious.

Although bacterial meningitis can be deadly, viral meningitis is usually harmless and will clear up without antibiotics. Over-the-counter pain killers and lots of fluid are recommended.

“Most of the cases respond to simple supportive measures and are of little consequences,” said Daren Winkelman, the environmental health director for the State Health Department, in a letter to parents.

However, he cautions parents to be watchful if symptoms of nausea, fever and severe headaches persist.

“While the vast majority of cases are mild and self-limited, a small number of cases have required hospitalization for supportive care and an even smaller number have had more severe symptoms,” he wrote.

As school resumes session today, the best defense against the spread of this and all diseases is simply to keep hands clean.

“In the case of facilities where numbers of children congregate, the best defense against spread of infection is good hygiene with enforcement of sanitary procedures such as handwashing,” Winkelman said.

Pierczynski will discuss the issue with members of the Carson City School Board at tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting.

If You Go:

What: Carson City School Board meeting

When: 7 tonight

Where: Carson City Community Center, Sierra Room