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Five treated for meningitis as a precaution
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Five children from Effingham County have been given preventative treatment after possibly coming into contact with bacterial meningitis from a day camp at the Pooler YMCA.

Marsha Cornell, nursing supervisor for the Effingham School System, said there are no other measures available to prevent the spread of the illness.

“Casual contact is not considered dangerous,” Cornell said. “Only those with close direct contact are at risk.”

She said there is an immunization available for older children, and that some colleges require students to have the vaccination, or it is sometimes recommended for seniors in high school.

Cornell said early diagnosis and treatment and preventative treatment for family members or others with close contact is the only way to keep the illness from spreading.

Ginger Heidel, public information officer for the Coastal Health District, said they were alerted to the possibility of meningitis Tuesday night.

“The test results came in on Wednesday, and we proceeded with medication that day,” she said.

Effingham County School Superintendent Randy Shearouse found out about the possible exposure Wednesday afternoon.  The health department got in touch with Cornell.

At first, school officials were told the number of kids who may have been exposed was 30 to 50. The parents of the five children who were at the Y camp in Pooler were contacted and given medication.

“They wanted to go ahead and give them the medicine,” Shearouse said.

It was not known whether the affected child had viral meningitis — which is not communicable — or the more dangerous bacterial meningitis. But the other children’s families were given the medication for bacterial meningitis as a precaution.

“No children were showing symptoms or signs,” Shearouse said. “But they didn’t want to take that chance. The health department worked with us to make sure everyone was taken care of.”

Had the school system and health department not been able to get in touch with the parents of the five children Wednesday night, school officials were prepared to give them the medicine as their children came to school Thursday morning.

“This shows our health department works very well with us,” Shearouse said.

Heidel said rifampin, the antibiotic given, is a preventative two-day treatment. While meningitis is contagious, it is not as contagious as the flu or a cold. It is spread solely through respiratory and throat secretions.

Heidel said normally preventative medicine would only be given to those with close contact to the person infected.

“The reason for treating so many is because it is hard to say who was in close contact,” she said. She said the department decided to take extra precautions.

Heidel said meningitis is not uncommon in childhood, but is more common among people who are college aged.