Local News

Cardinal Gibbons Students Catch Meningitis Possibly Through Football

Posted October 20, 2003

— Officials say there have been seven reported cases of viral meningitis in Raleigh.

Six cases of

viral meningitis

have been confirmed at Cardinal Gibbons High School.

Officials say all those infected are students. Letters went home to parents last week alerting them to the situation and also telling them to be on the lookout for the symptoms.

Viral meningitis is easily spread, especially in a contained environment like a school, and it seemed to spread through Cardinal Gibbons like a bad rumor.

Since late August, six students have been diagnosed with the illness. All of them, plus a middle-school student, had one thing in common: football.

According to one student, about half the Cardinal Gibbons football team came down with the illness. Viral meningitis is spread through direct contact, like sharing water bottles.

Because so many classmates have gotten sick, students at Cardinal Gibbons have gotten a quick lesson in personal hygiene -- washing hands, not drinking after each other and not eating after each other.

Although only a handful of students have been diagnosed with the illness, many more may have had it.

"One in 1,000 are symptomatic," said Dr. David Damsker, of the Wake County Health Department. "So, 999 out of 1,000 get it and don't even know they have it."

Viral meningitis is serious but rarely fatal in persons with normal immune systems. Usually, the symptoms last from seven to 10 days, and the person recovers completely.

Nevertheless, life can be miserable for those who get it.

"We had some admitted to the hospital, sick with sore necks," said Paula Williams, of the Wake County Health Department. "So they may not enjoy being out of school."

Since the students were diagnosed with meningitis, the football team has made a change. Instead of using water bottles, the players are now using paper cups.

In the last week, there have been no new cases reported.

Viral meningitis is the less serious form of the illness. Both viral and the more serious type, bacterial, are spread through coughing, sneezing and other close contact.

The main symptoms of both types include nausea, high temperature, severe headaches, neck stiffness, and a dislike of bright lights.

People who have either type are often tired, have short-term memory difficulties, concentration problems and temper tantrums.

There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis. Most patients recover completely on their own. Doctors often will recommend bed rest, plenty of fluids and medicine to relieve fever and headache.

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