D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and city health officials said they have confirmed that a student at Burrville Elementary School in Ward 7 tested positive for bacterial meningitis.
The disease causes inflammation in the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Those who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive must be treated immediately to prevent further illness as this infection spreads quickly and can be deadly.
Ward 7 Council member and Committee on Health Chair Vincent C. Gray said he spoke with leadership at DCPS and DC Health.
Notifications were sent out to all of the students and parents.
Gray said DCPS and DC Health officials initially notified just the parents of children who may have been affected in grades Pre-K3-and-K4.
“While I am relieved to learn that DCPS and DC Health acted swiftly to inform affected school families as soon as DC Health was alerted of the meningitis case, I am extremely concerned that the rest of the Burrville school families received no communication about this critical and potentially fatal health matter,” Gray said in a statement.
Many parents at the school only learned of the meningitis case from media reports, the councilman stated.
“Furthermore, notification should have been sent to parents with children who may have been affected as well as to parents whose children were less likely to have been affected,” Gray added.
“In the aftermath of this breakdown in communication, I am pleased that DCPS sent a letter to all Burrville families, alerting them to the situation and allaying any concerns for those students who were not affected by this case.
“Additionally, schoolwide notification went out in the form of a robo-call.”
Gray noted that his office would continue to monitor the situation.
Officials from DCPS and DC Health did not immediately return messages left by the Informer.
Bacterial meningitis is severe and can be deadly, health officials said. Death can occur in as little as a few hours, but most people recover from meningitis. However, permanent disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities can result from the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials said there’s an estimate of more than 1.2 million cases of bacterial meningitis worldwide each year.
In the United States, approximately 2,600 sporadic cases of bacterial meningitis are reported each year. Meningitis caused by pneumococcal infections affects about 1.1 in 100,000 individuals, while meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenza affects about 0.2 in 100,000 individuals.
In a letter to parents from the DC Health, officials said the risk of getting the infection from another person can also be reduced by taking preventive antibiotics.
The letter recommended parents take their children to the doctor to be evaluated for preventive medicine. Officials also provided parents of potentially affected kids with cleaning instructions and information about meningitis, including symptoms to look out for, which can develop three to seven days after exposure.
“The most common symptoms of meningococcal meningitis are high fever, headache, and a stiff neck,” the letter noted.