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Meningitis victim is Assabet student; Youth's friends, contacts notified.

Byline: Aaron Nicodemus

WESTBORO - A 17-year-old Westboro resident who is a student at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School has contracted meningococcal meningitis.

The student, whose name has not been released, is being treated at UMass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus, in Worcester. A spokeswoman said she could not release information about his condition, citing privacy laws.

Paul McNulty, Westboro's director of public health, said his office was notified Tuesday about a meningitis case in town. He said the boy's parents were notified, as were all of his friends and classmates at Assabet Valley.

"We try and contact everyone who he's known to hang out with, friends and girlfriends, anyone in extended close contact," Mr. McNulty said.

An infectious disease of the brain and spinal cord, meningococcal meningitis can be passed through saliva. Anyone the student has recently kissed, or shared a cigarette or water bottle with, could be infected as well. The disease can also be spread through sneezing or coughing.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, antibiotics are usually prescribed for someone who is infected, as well as anyone who may have come in contact with an infected person's saliva. Antibiotics are most effective when administered within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, according to the DPH.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even with appropriate treatment, meningococcal meningitis can be fatal in 5 percent to 15 percent of cases. Of people who do survive meningococcal disease, 10 percent to 20 percent have serious long-term effects from the illness, the agency said.

No one else has contracted the disease, Mr. McNulty said yesterday.

At Assabet Valley High in Marlboro, classmates in the student's technical classes, and all members of the boys' lacrosse team which the student plays on, were notified by the school nurse on Wednesday morning, according to Principal Mary Jo Nawrocki. Letters also went home with the students. She did not know how many students had been notified of the student's condition.

Ms. Nawrocki said the letters told parents that if they have any questions, they should contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

"All precautions have been taken," said Ms. Nawrocki. She said that although the student had been too ill to participate in practices with his lacrosse teammates, they were notified as a precaution.

This strain of meningitis has a very short incubation period of one to two days, meaning an infected person begins to show symptoms fairly quickly, Mr. McNulty said. The symptoms include a high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, body rash, stiff neck and joints, and mental confusion.

"People who have it feel really bad, really fast," Mr. McNulty said. The disease progresses very quickly, he said.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 4, 2008
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