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December 03. 2012 1:56PM

Londonderry High School faculty member tests positive for viral meningitis

LONDONDERRY - A Londonderry High School faculty member has tested positive for viral meningitis, school officials confirmed Monday.

A letter was sent home notifying parents, teachers and staff members, along with information on the disease provided by the state Department of Health and Human Services. Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said the faculty member, whose name was not released, had taken ill over the past weekend but was responding well to treatment and expected to fully recover.

"We've been advised that there is no public health issue at this time," Greenberg stressed. "And I can tell you that this individual is doing just fine."

Another Londonderry High School faculty member was diagnosed with the same illness in early October and has since recovered. Greenberg said the two occurrences aren't related.

Viral meningitis, an inflammation of the tissue and fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain, is generally much less contagious than bacterial meningitis, and Greenberg said the school district had opted to notify parents and staff members simply as a precaution, just like they'd done earlier this fall. However, parents were given information on the disease's symptoms just to stay on the safe side, and they're being urged to alert school staff should their children exhibit any telltale symptoms.

Viral meningitis can be caused by any number of viruses, including eteroviruses, herpes viruses and arboviruses, according to state health officials. The most common symptoms of the disease are high fever, severe headache and stiff neck. Other less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light, rash, confusion or sleepiness.

Symptoms may develop over the course of several hours or may take one to two days after exposure. In most cases, patients exhibiting symptoms are given a spinal tap to confirm infection, and it often takes several days to confirm test results.

"If any of these symptoms appear in your child, please call your health provider immediately," Greenberg advised parents by letter.

Since the viruses that cause viral meningitis are spread through different ways, particularly through coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing eating utensils, it's always smart to use universal precautions: washing your hands, covering your mouth when you sneeze and not sharing other peoples' cups or forks.

Chris Adamski, bureau chief of infectious diseases at the state Department of Health and Human Services, noted that, "not every infection will turn into meningitis."

Antibiotics are ineffective in treating viral meningitis, Adamski added, though most people are able to kick the infection on their own within seven to 10 days. Parents with questions about viral meningitis are encouraged to contact the state's public health nurse at 271-4496.

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