Boston officials have issued a health advisory after two children were diagnosed with meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal disease is an infectious disease caused by a bacterial infection. Both cases have been associated with Horizons for Homeless Children, a day care center specializing in serving children who have experienced homelessness, but it is not known if the two cases are connected. The affected children have attended different locations of the organization.
The last date the children were at one of the day care centers was Friday, and no secondary cases have been identified. But city officials are concerned the disease could lead to meningitis.
One of the children, Lucas Cook, is just 20 months old and already in the fight of his life.
Cook started throwing up about a week and a half ago. He had a fever, as well. His family took him to the emergency room, and he was quickly sent to intensive care. His mother said he was diagnosed with meningococcal disease.
"He's still sedated and intubated," said his mother, Kimberly Cook. "And now, they've got him restrained because he's trying to pull the tubes out because they're in him."
Cook had been attending the Dorchester location of Horizons for Homeless Children. The second student diagnosed attended Horizons' Roxbury campus.
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"We do not know if these cases are related, but we are working closely with the Boston Public Health Commission and have taken all recommended precautions to protect our students and staff at these locations," Horizons CEO Kate Barrand said in a statement.
"I'm extremely worried," Kimberly Cook said. "He is starting to respond, but they don't know the long-term effects."
According to health officials, all individuals known to have been in close contact with the children have been identified and received antibiotics as a precautionary measure to reduce their risk of infection.
"We're certainly making sure that everyone was checked and everyone that came in contact with one of these young people — because there's little kids together — making sure all the families are notified and the hospitals are notified so they can do all the safety precautions," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said.
The disease is spread from person to person through saliva, requiring close contact with infected individuals. The time from exposure to developing symptoms is between one to 10 days. Symptoms develop rapidly and include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental status or confusion.
There are several different forms of meningococcal disease, including infection of the blood and infection of the brain and spinal cord, known as meningitis.
The illnesses are often severe and can be deadly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early detection and initiation of antibiotics for suspected meningococcal disease is critically important.
Meningococcal disease is fairly rare, with only about 10 to 15 cases reported statewide each year.