- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2004

An elementary school teacher has contracted Fairfax County’s third case of viral meningitis in a week.

The teacher from Armstrong Elementary School in Reston was hospitalized yesterday for viral meningitis, county health officials said.

News of the teacher’s case comes three days after the death of a 16-year-old Chantilly High School student. The student, who has been identified in published reports as Courtney “Kay” Richard, spent four days in a hospital suffering from viral meningitis and encephalitis.

The Fairfax County Health Department said the cause did not appear to be bacterial, but an autopsy is under way.

Another 16-year-old Chantilly high school student was hospitalized earlier last week with symptoms of viral meningitis. The girl, who has not been identified, remains in stable condition, and authorities have said she is improving.

Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the department’s director of health, said yesterday the bacterial form of the disease is more deadly, but in this case it was the viral strain that caused the student’s death.

“This is rare and it is very unfortunate,” Dr. Addo-Ayensu said.

Kimberly Cordero, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Health Department, said there is no evidence of a connection between the teacher’s case and the cases in Chantilly.

“It is not unusual to see several cases of viral meningitis at the same time of the year,” Miss Cordero said. “Increases in the number of illnesses occur mostly in summer and fall.”

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid of the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain and can be caused by a virus or bacteria.

Viral meningitis is more common, and most people with normal immune systems make a full recovery.

The virus is spread by direct contact with saliva or mucus of an infected person. Symptoms of viral meningitis include severe headache, stiff neck, fever, a rash and sensitivity to bright light.

The county health department said the spread of the disease can be prevented by not sharing personal items such as eating utensils, lip balm and water bottles.

The department also stressed the importance of frequent hand washing.

Meanwhile, county health officials still do not know the cause of death of a 12-year-old Franklin Middle School student who died suddenly at his home Thursday.

It could take a week for autopsy results to determine the cause, but preliminary information indicates that this case was not caused by meningitis.

Miss Cordero said the boy showed no signs of illness.

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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