Meningitis cases at Wilton High School

There have been two confirmed cases of viral or aseptic meningitis at Wilton High School, according to a letter sent home to parents today, Sept. 19. The letter, from Superintendent Kevin Smith, says there is a third suspected, but not confirmed case, as well.

In his letter, Dr. Smith distinguished between viral and bacterial meningitis.

“Viral meningitis is often less severe than bacterial meningitis and usually resolves without specific treatment,” he said, citing information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was also included with the letter.

But it can be severe or fatal depending on the virus causing the infection, the person’s age, or whether a person has a weakened immune system.

The CDC fact sheet also said “most viral meningitis cases in the United States, especially during the summer months, are caused by enteroviruses; however, only a small number of people with enterovirus infections actually develop meningitis.”

One type of enterovirus, EV-D68, has been affecting large numbers of children in midwestern and southern states. There has been one confirmed case in Connecticut at the children’s hospital at Yale-New Haven. Norwalk Hospital has also reportedly sent samples from two patients to the CDC for analysis for enterovirus.

This virus — EV-D68 — causes respiratory illnesses that can be transmitted in the same ways a cold virus is: touching contaminated objects, close contact with an infected person’s coughs or sneezes, etc.

Contact with an infected person may increase one’s chances of becoming infected with the original virus that made them sick, however development of meningitis as a result of the sickness is unlikely. Nevertheless, the school district is taking precautions.

“Our Supervisor of Custodial and Maintenance Services John Murphy is working closely with us to ensure an increased level of cleaning for commonly touched surface areas,” Dr. Smith wrote.

“The school administrators and the school nurses are working together to monitor trends in illness within our schools,” he added, and said parents with questions should speak with their doctor or the school nurse.

Neither Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith nor Principal Robert O’Donnell was available for further comment.

Other viral infections that can lead to meningitis include mumps, measles, influenza and viruses spread by mosquitoes. The herpes virus, including Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex viruses and varicella-zoster virus, which causes chicken pox and shingles, are also causes.

Recovery

Most patients suffering from viral meningitis completely recover on their own within seven to 10 days, the CDC said. There is no vaccine for meningitis.

Symptoms of viral meningitis in adults include:

•High fever;

•Severe headache;

•Stiff neck;

•Sensitivity to bright light;

•Sleepiness or trouble waking up;

•Nausea, vomiting;

•Lack of appetite.

Symptoms in infants include fever, irritability, poor eating, difficult to awaken.

There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis, but sometimes the original virus can be treated, such as the herpes virus.

Prevention

The best prevention is to wash hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom, coughing, blowing the nose, or changing a diaper.

Avoid sharing things like cups or utensils with others who appear sick.

Ensure children are vaccinated against measles, mumps and chicken pox.

Avoid bites from mosquitoes.

Control rodents around the home. A rare source of meningitis is a virus called LCMV, which is transmitted by rodents.

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