Meningitis found in Eureka student, risk of spread ‘low’ says DHHS

EUREKA – A Eureka student is being treated at an out of the area hospital for bacterial meningitis, a dangerous and possibly fatal infection, but public health experts say risk to the community is low.

In a message to families, the principal of washington elementary said that the student attended the school for two days while infected.

School staff and officials with the Department of Health and Human Services contacted anyone who may have been exposed and they are being treated with antibiotics as a preventative measure.

Eureka City Schools Superintendent Fred Van Vleck said the district is being proactive and called an emergency meeting to discuss how to spot symptoms. He emphasized the risk of spread is minimal.

Van Vleck said, “We’re not aware of any other cases. We’re not aware of anyone who feels like they have the symptoms or anything like that and we’ve been working very closely with the Department of Health and Human Services. We’ve been doing some good work with them and done some strategizing to make sure that we minimize any impacts potentially of this beyond the initial student who is sick.”

Humboldt County Public Health Officer Donald Baird said meningitis affects the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, headache, and a stiff neck and can lead to loss of limbs, speech and vision or even death if not treated early.

While the origin of this particular case is unknown, Doctor Baird said the infection is not easily spread.

Baird explained, “Up to 10% of the population walking around healthy carry the same bacteria in their throat. I would not consider this highly contagious. I would consider like any disease it’s contagious but only with very close intimate contact.” If you think you may be experiencing symptoms, you are urged to contact your primary care physician.