Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

TOP STORY >>Day care center opens after meningitis scare

By ALIYA FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville day care center is now open after a brief closure earlier this week when a child from the school died. The Department of Health is conducting an infectious disease investigation and parents are getting their children tested for meningitis.

The cause of the death of the child who attended First Care For Children in Jacksonville is not yet known.

“The autopsy has not returned anything,” Ed Barham, spokesman for the Department of Health, said Thursday. “We didn’t close down the day care center,” Barham said of the school’s day-long closure on Thursday. He said the center voluntarily closed.

Children were in attendance Friday, the center’s director Laura Sanden said.

 “We typically treat close contacts with people who have become sick according to their signs and symptoms, especially in the case of someone who can’t communicate what the symptoms are,” Barham said.

The school takes care of infants as young as six weeks old and is run by First Baptist Church.

Jacksonville residents who came in close contact with the child are being treated as if they have meningitis.

Symptoms will be treated until lab results are returned, Barham said.

The Department of Health treats suspected infectious disease cases when a doctor or hospital reports them to the state. Often, infectious diseases are never reported because they are treated effectively, Barham said, negating any need for state intervention.

“(A) doctor will treat with antibiotics. There might not be lab results ever available. In the case of several infectious diseases, modern drug therapy is used,” Barham said.

People who have come in contact with a patient who has an infectious disease, such as meningitis, tuberculosis or whooping cough, can be treated with antibiotics so that the disease can be contained.

“Once we’ve conducted the investigation and made systematic contact with all…close contacts, generally immediate family, once we’ve done that and made contact and given drugs they need to take, then the thing you do next is you look at results and find out what happened, then the case can be closed,” Barham said.

He said the department investigates infectious disease “every day, it’s routine.”

"If people have not been in contact with us because of this event, they do not have to be afraid,” Barham said.

“Then we are confident that they are not in danger from this particular event,” he said.

A meningitis vaccine is available, but is only given to adolescents.

In Arkansas, vaccines against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, rubeola (red measles) and rubella (German measles) are required for children to enter school. Children may be exempt from these vaccinations for medical or religious reasons.