Chapel Hill News

February 20, 2014

East Chapel Hill High student dies of bacterial infection

A 14-year-old student died from a bacterial infection in his bloodstream Wednesday after complaining of a headache the day before.

Fourteen people have been treated as a precaution after coming in close contact with the 14-year-old East Chapel Hill High student who died from a suspected bacterial infection in his bloodstream Wednesday, officials said.

The ninth grader went to the school nurse Tuesday after having a headache and feeling sick, said Stacy Shelp, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Department. He was feverish. The school nurse sent him home and recommended he see a doctor, which he did later that day, Shelp said.

Test results are not back, but the cause of death is suspected to be Meningococcemia, a rare bloodstream infection caused by Meningococcus, which can spread through saliva and respiratory droplets.

Multiple users on Twitter identified the student as Javan Stewart.

Stewart’s Facebook page says he is from Brooklyn, N.Y. An employee at Walker’s Funeral Home in Chapel Hill said the Stewart family asked about sending his body to New York for burial, although the family will not be using the funeral home.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools would not confirm the student’s name, citing the family’s request for privacy, spokesman Jeff Nash said.

The school system provided additional staff members for students at the school Thursday, he said.

Meningococcemia in N.C.

On average, there are 18 cases of Meningococcemia a year in North Carolina, and it is most common in the winter and early spring.

There have been seven cases in the state so far this year.

Judy Butler, community help services supervisor for the Orange County Health Department, said this was the first case in the county in more than a year.

The school system notified parents of East Chapel Hill High students within hours of the boy’s death.

Going forward, there isn’t much more of a health concern for other students, she said.

“It’s a concern because somebody died,” Butler said. “But as far as the expectation there will be other cases, then no.”

The infection has a high mortality rate if it attacks the bloodstream, with people showing symptoms three to four days before death. Symptoms can include a high fever, a stiff neck, eyes sensitive to light, vomiting, nausea and chills.

But people can carry the bacteria in their bodies and never get sick with it, Butler said. There’s no way to know when the student contracted it, she said.

“It’s wicked,” Butler said. “Many people who survive have lifelong health problems. But the people who are cured are very lucky.”

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