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Johnston Teen Dies; Family, Friends Treated for Meningitis

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SMITHFIELD — The Johnston County Health Department says the bacteria which indicates meningitis was found in the blood of a teenager who died Friday.

Close friends and family are being treated to prevent the disease.

Students at Smithfield-Selma High School are more concerned about the loss of their friend than they are about the health threat.

Jeremy Scarboro, 16, was an honor student, a community leader and good friend to many people. Monday, students remembered him and wondered why he died.

Flags flew at half-staff at the high school Monday. Students and faculty wore green ribbons in memory of Scarboro.

"Everybody loved him. He was a really good people person. He was really social. You couldn't help but love him," said student John Stubbs.

"That's all anybody thinks about, him dying and why it had to be him. But they know that there is obviously a good reason, because God wouldn't have taken him if it wasn't," said student Dana Whitfield.

While students deal with their grief, the Johnston County Health Department is getting medicine ready to help prevent meningitis.

The Health Department says the official cause of death is still being investigated.

But the director says that meningococcus, an indicator of bacterial meningitis, was found in Scarboro's blood.

"Meningococcal is the thing we have to be concerned about. It's a bacterial infection, and this young child apparently had an overwhelming infection from it," said Johnston County Health Director Dr. Leonard Woodall.

Woodall says many people have the bacteria in their throats but are immune to the disease. He says few people who are exposed get meningitis.

As a precaution, the health department is working with the school and the family to medicate anyone who had close contact with Scarboro.

Close contact is defined as intimate contact, such as sharing eating utensils or drinking out of the same glass.

"Our school personnel has been meeting with the health department, and we are certainly going to do all we can to get information to our community and support and cooperate with them in every way possible," said Principal Don Woodard.

Over the next 24 hours, health officials will be talking to students and family members who may need the medication.

There are ways to reduce your risk of getting bacterial meningitis.
  • The disease is spread by direct contact.
  • Avoid body fluids spread by coughing or sneezing.
  • Don't share eating utensils.
  • Don't share food.
  • Don't share cigarettes.
  • On Tuesday afternoon, family and students will meet at the high school for a memorial service for Scarboro.