Margate school officials report suspected viral meningitis case

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MARGATE – A member of the Margate public school community has a suspected case of viral meningitis, which has prompted district officials to reach out to parents to let them know there is no danger that it could spread to students at this time.

Superintendent Therese DeFranco said she received a telephone call Sunday night informing her that a member of the school community may have contracted viral meningitis. DeFranco would not confirm if it was a student or staffer.

“I cannot confirm if it was a child or not a child. We are saying it is a member of the school system,” DeFranco said.

Due to confidentiality requirements, DeFranco could not disclose the condition of the patient or anything about other illnesses the person may have contracted.

Viral meningitis, an inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord common in summer and fall, is less serious than bacterial meningitis and cannot be treated with antibiotics. People usually recover with rest and fever-reducing medication. It can be contracted through contact with saliva or fecal matter.

DeFranco said she spoke to several doctors and representatives of the Atlantic County Board of Health for three hours Sunday night. Based on their review, nothing special, including cleaning, was required at the schools.

The district sent out a GlobalConnect message to parents as soon as the illness was discovered and sent a letter home with students informing parents what they could do to protect their children.

The chance of a child contracting the disease is remote, the letter said. Although it is more common in children, adults can contract the disease from a common stomach virus.

According to the Communicable Disease Service and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, casual contact at school or work with someone who has viral meningitis usually will not transmit the germ. Most people’s immune systems are able to fight off the infection, and others will just get an upset stomach, diarrhea or a cold.

Doctors and nurses at the school recommended good personal hygiene as a preventative measure, including frequent hand washing, especially after using the bathroom.

Symptoms include fever, headache and tiredness, nausea, stiff neck and sensitivity to light. It is confirmed through blood tests and spinal fluid.

A final culture of the patient was due to be released to school officials 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 20.

“My message to everyone is that there is no health and safety concern in the Margate schools at this time,” DeFranco said.

In another matter, DeFranco said a bedbug sniffing K-9 from the Erlich pest control company spent eight hours inspecting the Eugene A. Tighe and William H. Ross schools on Saturday, May 17 and found no evidence of bedbugs.

A single bedbug was found in a classroom at the Ross School last week, which prompted an investigation by the pest control company. It was an isolated incident, officials said.

DeFranco said that in addition to regular pest control inspections, the district would conduct routine inspections for bedbugs several times a year.

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