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No meningitis outbreak

About 10 parents decided to keep their children home from school last week after learning that a fifth-grader at Cottage Grove Elementary School was diagnosed with a rare form of bacterial meningitis called meningococcal meningitis, said Principa...

About 10 parents decided to keep their children home from school last week after learning that a fifth-grader at Cottage Grove Elementary School was diagnosed with a rare form of bacterial meningitis called meningococcal meningitis, said Principal Rick Houston.


The student was hospitalized at Children's Hospital in St. Paul March 16 and was diagnosed the next day. The school was notified shortly thereafter.


"As soon as we found out we held the two fifth-grade classes and handed out a fact sheet to kids so that the parents would know right away what was going on before they heard it from another source," Houston said.


The next day the same notification was distributed schoolwide along with a brief letter to all parents and families at Cottage Grove Elementary. Information was also sent out on the school's electronic list-serve and was immediately posted on the School District 833 web site.


"We've had a few less kids (come to school), but for the most part the public has been fine," Houston said. "We haven't had much panic. We've had a few phone calls from parents asking questions and we've answered them as best we can."

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Though outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis can occur, they are relatively uncommon, according to the fact sheet Houston handed out to parents. Most cases are isolated and sporadic, it said.


According to the district's web site, "only very close household contacts of the patient are at increased risk of contracting meningitis. Other contacts such as school friends and co-workers are only very rarely at higher risk and do not normally need special treatment or investigation."


The last outbreak of this disease in Minnesota was in December of 1998 and January of 1999 in the Duluth area.


Minnesota and Washington County health departments have worked closely with the school district during the past week to help keep parents, students, teachers and local residents informed about the disease. The health department did not suggest giving any sort of treatment to anyone outside of the infected child's immediate family, Houston said.


"(The child) is not doing real well," Houston said last Friday morning. "He's in an induced coma. The last I heard is that he has made improvement and things are very promising, but we still have a very very sick boy."


Cottage Grove Elementary School is on spring break this week.


For more information on the situation or meningitis, visit the district's web site at www.sowashco.k12.mn.us .


Additional information from the state health department is available at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/meningitis/index.html .

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