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Anne Arundel County Public Schools spokesman Bob Mosier said the school system is working with the county's health department to identify anyone who might have come into close contact with the young woman.

“The health department is contacting those folks individually,” Mr. Mosier said. “That’s the next step from a potential exposure standpoint.”

Dr. Jinlene Chan, the county’s deputy health officer, called the young woman’s death “a tragedy for the family, for the school, and certainly for the community” but said her department’s top priorities were to reassure and protect the community against future outbreaks.

Antibiotics also are recommended for people who have come in contact with a potentially infected person, Dr. Chan said, but she warned that not everyone needs them.

Dr. Chan said the county was still investigating how and when the student fell ill, and officials could only suspect that her cause of death was a bacterial infection.

“There are different kinds of organisms that can get past our defenses,” Dr. Chan said. “It could be bacteria, it could be a virus, or it could be a fungus. Different kinds of organisms cause symptoms, and sometimes the severity depends not only on the type of organism, but the type of person.”