Viral Meningitis Prompts School Responses in Maine

Health officials in Maine say there are seven confirmed cases of viral meningitis in York County Schools.

The Saco School Department sent a letter home to parents Tuesday, telling them a middle school student has viral meningitis. In RSU 57, the district that includes Alfred, Limerick, Lyman, Newfield, Shapleigh and Waterboro, there are four students with viral meningitis. And in SAD 60 in North Berwick, two students have confirmed cases.

"Most of the York County superintendents have been watching this," said Saco Superintendent Dominic DePatsy.

The superintendent his district is following similar protocol - adding cleanings to classrooms, cafeterias, bathrooms and buses, and sending letters home to parents.

Viral meningitis is not a reportable illness to the Maine Centers for Disease Control, and school officials stress that no student has contracted the more serious, sometimes fatal, bacterial meningitis.

"The main concern is if you have symptoms that suggest meningitis, you have been checked out by your doctor [to know if] it’s viral, and not bacterial," said Maine CDC epidemiologist Siiri Bennett.

Dr. Bennett explained that meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is a symptom of a virus or bacterial infection, not a disease itself. She said symptoms include: fever, headaches, neck stiffness, and lethargy.

"If bacterial meningitis is not treated, it’s very serious, and there are long-term effects," said Bennett. "Viral meningitis does not have those long-term effects."

Superintendent DePatsy said his middle school student is doing well, and should return to school in about a week.

School and health officials remind students to wash hands regularly, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay home at the onset of symptoms.

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