School takes health precautions after meningitis scare

By Ryan Ottney

September 3, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

Northwest Superintendent Todd Jenkins said the school district has taken immediate precautions by disinfecting its buildings, after a student had a confirmed diagnosis of bacterial meningitis this weekend.

Northwest senior Kalyn Mitchell, according to River Days Pageant organizers, was scheduled to represent Northwest Schools at the Miss River Days Pageant Saturday night. Ruth Montavon, Nursing Director for the Scioto County Health Department, said Mitchell started to show symptoms of the illness on Thursday.

“What we’re dealing with a case of suspected bacterial meningitis. Suspected means we do not have the confirmatory labs back yet. I can also tell you, it (bacterial meningitis) is spread through direct contact with saliva,” Montavon said on Saturday.

In a letter sent home with Northwest students on Tuesday, the school said meningitis was confirmed and no other cases have been reported in Scioto County.

“We do not know where this case came from, because there has not been a case before her that was connected,” Montavon said on Saturday.

A Nationwide Children’s Hospital spokesperson said Mitchell was listed in critical condition on Saturday, and remained in critical condition on Monday. On Tuesday the hospital reported Mitchell had improved to “fair” condition, and Jenkins said she was doing much better.

“She’s doing good. It looks like she’s going to make a full recovery. She’s talking now. She was on a ventilator there for a day or two. They kind of kept her sedated. But the MRI and stuff comes back positive and looks good. Now it’s just a process of mending and returning back to school and whatever else she does,” Jenkins said.

He said the school acted quickly once they heard the news.

“Because of social media, word got out pretty quick, and the article that was in the newspaper Sunday,” Jenkins said. “We do have a letter that’s going to all of our students here, just reminding them what it is, how you contract it, and so forth. These are the symptoms. If you have symptoms, you need to call your physician.”

He said Mitchell was not displaying any symptoms of illness at school this year, and no other students have reported any symptoms. Attendance was also normal on Monday, Jenkins said, and no parents have pulled their child out of school. Symptoms listed in the letter include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion and sleepiness.

“The problem with that is, just like when you have a cold or the flu, a lot of the symptoms are the same. But there’s no other reported cases at this point. The thing is, you could be a carrier and not be sick. So it’s hard to know. There’s no other reported cases,” Jenkins said.

Because of her illness, Mitchell was unable to participate in the Miss River Days Pageant on Saturday. A moment of silence and a prayer was held on Mitchell’s behalf during the pageant. Once she’s feeling better, Jenkins said the school might have Mitchell and her River Days float at their first home football game.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.