An unidentified 12-year-old student at St. Gregory Barbarigo School died Saturday of bacterial meningitis. The girl, who was in the sixth grade, was a Spring Valley resident. Thirty-three students, teachers and family members who were believed to have close contact with her have been advised to receive antibiotic treatment.
Rockland County Health officials held a press conference at midday Monday to discuss the case and steps they have taken. Medical Examiner Laura Carbone said a 90-minute autopsy was performed Sunday morning that determined the girl died of bacterial meningitis. Once the autopsy was completed, the county health department and priest at St. Gregory were immediately notified and the process of identifying those people who had been in close contact with the girl began.
Acting Health Commissioner Kathy Henry said the department responded quickly and effectively to the situation.
“We want to assure our community that we are doing everything possible to educate and get appropriate treatment if needed to the children and families affected,” she said.
Those at risk are people who were within three to five feet and had extended contact with her and could have come into contact with her saliva within the week prior to her death. The exposure period is considered to be from Friday, March 22 through Friday, March 29. The eight teachers, 23 students and two other people, who used the same transportation as the girl, were all reached on Sunday and none of them have reported getting ill.
“By this morning everyone on the contact list has scrip called in to their pharmacy,” said Acting Medical Director Dr. Anil Vaidian.
St. Gregory Pastor Rev. Joseph LaMorte said it was difficult dealing with the young girl’s death and he described her as someone who related well to her peers and was well adjusted. He said the school community was alerted on Sunday through emergency alert system that sent voicemail and emails. LaMorte said school administrators are following county health department instructions.
No other cases of bacterial meningitis have been reported in Rockland or nearby counties. The lab test to determine the specific type of bacteria infections is expected by Tuesday.
The girl had seen her pediatrician last Wednesday and was diagnosed with conjunctivitis. She was not feeling well Saturday evening and was unresponsive when she was rushed to the hospital said Vaidian.
Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord and symptoms include fever and progressive listlessness.
The county health department is sending a health advisory to parents, staff and area residents about the St. Gregory is a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Garnerville and enrolls 300 students. The school is closed this week as previously scheduled.