5-year-old Durham student dies from possible meningitis

jalexander@newsobserver.comNovember 14, 2013 

— A 5-year old girl died Wednesday morning from a possible case of bacterial meningitis.

The girl attended Mount Zion Christian Academy on Fayettville Street. The diagnosis is unofficial, but officials have taken precautions by giving preventive antibiotics to the nine students she came in contact with, said Eric Nickens, a spokesman for the Durham County Public Health Department. The students will not be tested for meningitis, but Nickens said Thursday morning that the antibiotics will take care of any symptoms that could occur.

Thursday afternoon, Nickens said the nine students are fine and can return to school when it reopens.

The name of the girl was not released.

Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

It is spread by direct contact of oral secretions, such as from sharing food or silverware, and not by casual contact.

Possible symptoms include high fever, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, severe headache, small bright red spots, or bigger spots that are purplish-blue, Nickens said. Symptoms typically occur within three to seven days after exposure. The girl’s symptoms are unknown.

The girl’s parents took her to the emergency room at Duke Hospital on Wednesday morning, where she died.

Nickens said meningitis is rare. There have been five cases in the past six years, before this possible case.

The Academy was closed Wednesday and remained closed Thursday. The investigation is continuing.

Efforts to reach Donald Fozard Sr., pastor of Mount Zion Christian Academy, were unsuccessful.

“Mount Zion Christian Academy is a comprehensive school committed to a disciplined, academic, and creative Christian environment,” according to its website.

The school is a college preparatory, nondenominational, co-educational day school and boarding school that serves grades K-12.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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