LEBANON — Antibiotics were administered to 107 students at Green Acres Elementary School in Lebanon and 68 students at Linus Pauling Middle School last month, after one student at each of the schools was diagnosed with meningococcal disease.
According to Linn County Health Officer Dr. William Muth, the disease was confined to the 7-year-old second-grader from Lebanon and 13-year-old from Albany respectively. (The 13-year-old student attends Linus Pauling in Corvallis.)
The cases were not linked to meningococcal issues at Oregon State University.
“In both cases, we are talking about Seral Group C, as opposed to the outbreak at Oregon State, which involves Seral Group B,” Muth said. “So neither of the Linn County cases is related to what’s ongoing at Oregon State.”
Since the fall of 2016, six undergraduates at OSU have been infected with meningococcus B.
Muth said he did not know if either of the younger students had been vaccinated against the disease.
He said the Linus Pauling student is old enough to receive such a vaccination, but the Lebanon student is younger than the accepted guidelines, which suggest vaccinations at age 11.
The first case of the disease involved the older child and was reported Jan. 14, when the child was hospitalized. The Lebanon case was reported Jan. 25, although health officials had been working for a few days notifying parents and school officials and developing data about potential close contacts who may need antibiotics.
Muth said the disease is not highly contagious, but can be spread among family members and in some cases classmates due to close contact.
“Containment seems to have worked to this date, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be another case tomorrow,” Muth said. “The incubation period is usually three or four days, but it can go up to 10 days.”
Muth said he has been the county health officer since 2010 and he can’t remember having two cases in such a short time period.
Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterium that lives in the noses and throats of 5 to 10 percent of the population. It causes serious disease only if it enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the entire body.
Symptoms of meningococcal disease include high fever; shaking chills; rash; fatigue; severe ache and pains
The disease kills about 10 of every 100 persons infected. Twenty out of 100 may develop a disability such as loss of hearing or limbs, brain or kidney damage, nervous system problems and scars from skin grafts.
Meningococcal disease symptoms are a sudden onset of high fever, headache, exhaustion, nausea, rash, stiff neck, vomiting and diarrhea.
The disease spreads through the passage of bodily fluids such as sneezing, coughing or sharing utensils.
“Parents need to be vigilant about having their children checked out if they have symptoms of meningococcal disease, although it may be difficult to distinguish those symptoms from other diseases at first,” Muth said.
In addition to his role as the Linn County Health Officer, Muth is an infectious disease specialist with Samaritan Health Services at the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.