POMONA – The Rockland County Department of Health announced on Monday an investigation into the death from Meningitis of a 12-year-old Rockland girl who attended St. Gregory’s School. Officials explained preventative measures and means to reach out to those who might have been exposed.
“I want to stress that we are responding, and we are responding quickly and appropriately,” Rockland Commissioner of Health Kathy Henry said.
According to Health Department Medical Director Anil Vaidian, the girl displayed a “short course of symptoms” which is only seen in a small number of infections including meningococcal diseases. She was sent home last Wednesday with a case of conjunctivitis but had no symptoms of meningitis until she could not be awakened from sleep and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
An autopsy was conducted on Sunday and concluded bacterial meningitis was the cause of death. Though no further cases have been identified, an investigation is ongoing and upcoming laboratory results will hopefully reveal the type and strain of infection.
After the finding, the Department of Health quickly contacted her school and received a list of 33 close contacts with the girl including family, teachers and students, said Vaidian.
All were contacted directly by the DOH and received prophylactic antibiotics. All of the students and teachers have been accounted for, he said.
Though others might have been exposed, Vaidian explained they were not at significant risk of infection.
“What we deem as the most important contacts are individuals who are very close in terms of physical proximity and have spent the greatest amount of time [with the girl],” Vaidian stressed.
Meanwhile, alerts were sent out by the Department of Health, St. Gregory’s School and the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Planning. Parents, schools, medical professionals and other affected residents were notified in the alerts.
“We are doing the best we can to educate the healthcare providers in our community,” County Director of Epidemiology E. Oscar Alleyene said. “We have sent out a health alert informing them of this instance and the necessary steps they can take to evaluate any individuals who may be close contacts or allay the fears of those who were not close contacts.”
Father Joseph LaMorte of St. Gregory’s school did not give many details about the girl but described her as a well-adjusted, good student in the sixth grade and that her loss was “difficult.” LaMorte also explained the school was working closely with the Department of Health as more information becomes available.
Bacterial meningitis is spread through oral and nasal secretions and often involves symptoms of fever, headaches and stiff neck. Isolated cases and clusters where people are grouped in close quarters occur several times a year in New York State.