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Garden Grove school takes action against meningitis

March 01, 2007|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

About 250 Garden Grove students and nearly 50 teachers and other adults were given precautionary antibiotics after a Pacifica High School student was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, officials said Wednesday.

The Orange County Health Care Agency was informed Tuesday of the teen's diagnosis, then handed out Cipro pills that night and Wednesday morning to people who had been in close contact with the stricken student, said Howard Sutter, spokesman for the agency.

The infected student, whose identity and condition were withheld by health officials, attended an all-night senior event at the school Friday, said Alan Trudell, spokesman for the Garden Grove Unified School District.

The teenager was diagnosed earlier with meningococcal disease, which is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children and can cause blood infections, according to the California Department of Health Services.

College students who live in dorms are among those at an increased risk for the disease.

Meningococcal infection can be spread through coughing, kissing or sharing a drink or food, said Dr. Hildy Meyers, epidemiologist for the county healthy agency. The antibiotic is 90% to 95% effective in preventing the disease.

About 2,600 people get the disease in the United States each year.

Symptoms include fever, headache, rash, a stiff neck, vomiting and confusion, according to the state agency.

Between 10% and 15% die despite treatment with antibiotics.

Of those who survive, between 11% and 19% lose arms or legs, become deaf or suffer brain damage, seizures or strokes.

Parents of all 1,928 Pacifica High School students have been informed of the illness, but Trudell noted that the bacteria is not airborne and requires close contact to spread.

"We're told it's unlikely any other students may have been exposed," he said.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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