- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

EDGEWATER, Md. (AP) Anne Arundel County health officials have asked dozens of parents to give their children antibiotics to treat bacterial meningitis after a preschool student came down with the disease.
Telephone calls notifying parents about the case began about 8 a.m. Easter Sunday after the unidentified boy was hospitalized. Officials said they wanted to keep the contagious, potentially fatal disease from spreading on a day that families typically get together.
"We were just calling as many people as we could," said Carole Kauffman, program manager for the county's communicable-diseases division. "It's a shock to get a call like this on Easter or on any day. But we're doing this for prevention and to be supercautious."
The sick boy is a student at London Town Academy, a preschool and after-school center with about 75 students, said Sohail Qarni, medical consultant for the Anne Arundel County Health Department. The student also came into contact with about 10 other youths at a March 24 birthday party.
Dr. Katherine Farrell, deputy health officer for Anne Arundel County, said yesterday that the boy was improving.
Miss Kauffman said parents were asked to have their children take antibiotics as a precaution. Two pharmacies provided pediatric doses of the drug Rifampin.
Officials said the sick preschooler began showing symptoms of bacterial meningitis on Friday. He was being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said Frances Phillips, an Anne Arundel County health officer.
It was not immediately known how the child may have contracted the disease.
Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the fluid and membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It is spread through coughing, kissing and other close contact. Flulike symptoms include high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash and a stiff neck. Symptoms may appear two to 10 days after exposure.
About 10 percent of cases result in death, and another 10 percent result in serious harm, including brain damage and hearing loss.
Unlike viral meningitis, which is far less serious and can be spread by casual contact, bacterial meningitis requires close, immediate contact for transmission. Widespread transmission of bacterial meningitis is very rare.

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