Matawan-Aberdeen Regional High School student died - Health Department is reaching out to contacts

FREEHOLD, NJ – A 17-year-old male at Matawan-Aberdeen Regional High School died early this morning of suspected bacterial meningitis.

“Monmouth County Health Department staff are working closing with the young man’s family members and school officials to identify close contacts of the student who may have been exposed to the disease,” the county’s public health coordinator Michael Meddis said. “We are working quickly to address the needs of the family and the community.”

A phone bank has been opened to answer questions from other concerned community members.  The phone number is 732-431-7456.

“Initial indications are that the teenager may have had bacterial meningitis,” Meddis said. “Meningitis bacteria are spread from person to person through saliva or other respiratory secretions. You must be in close contact with a sick person's secretions for the bacteria to spread.”

Close contact includes activities such as:

• living in the same household;

• kissing;

• sharing eating utensils or food;

• sharing drinks;

• sharing cigarettes;

• uncovered, face-to-face sneezing or coughing.

The bacteria are not spread by casual contact activities like being in the same workspace or schoolroom as the sick person or by handling books or other items that the sick person has touched. Likewise, being around a person who was in contact with the sick person does not put you at risk for catching meningococcal disease.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding a person's spinal cord and brain that can be caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infection, the bacteria can spread to blood and cause additional complications

The early symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever, headache, body aches, feeling very tired or sleepy.  Other symptoms that may occur are stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and sensitivity to light.

Later in the illness, a rash appearing as purple blotches or spots on the arms, legs or torso may be seen. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important.

Anyone who presents such symptoms should contact their health care professional immediately.

More information about meningitis is available from the Monmouth County Health Department at 732-431-7456 and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html.