Wyoming Health Officials: Meningitis Not Confirmed in Student
A fourth-grade student who was reportedly flown from southern Wyoming to a Colorado hospital Wednesday after being believed to have contracted bacterial meningitis has not been confirmed to have that particular illness, state health officials say.
"Hospital laboratory work involving the Carbon County student described in communications shared earlier this week by local school representatives has not been completed," Wyoming Department of Health Spokesperson Kim Deti said in a statement Friday. "As a result, no specific diagnosis has been confirmed for this student."
Jim Copeland, superintendent for Carbon County School District No. 2, told K2 Radio News on Thursday that a student at Hanna Elementary School was taken for treatment and four schools in Hanna, Elk Mountain and Medicine Bow were closed Thursday so they could be cleaned in order to prevent the spread of the meningitis-causing bacteria.
"We found out yesterday [Wednesday] in our district -- Carbon two school district -- that one of our elementary students, who is at Hanna Elementary School, had a confirmed case of bacterial meningitis," Copeland said in a phone interview Thursday morning. "That student has been life-flighted to the Denver area -- I'm not sure which hospital."
"We did get the latest report this [Thursday] morning that he is responding [to treatment] and doing much better," Copeland added. "This student had been having some fever- and flu-like symptoms this week and toward the end of last week, and so the parents thought it was just flu."
"But then when it was confirmed yesterday [Wednesday] that it was bacterial meningitis, we took several steps. We sent e-mail notification to the parents of our northern elementary and secondary campuses just to be safe and as a precaution," Copeland said. "We also decided late yesterday [Wednesday] to close those northern campuses so that the staff could clean and disinfect using antibacterial agents."
In a phone interview Friday, Deti told K2 Radio that the department does not usually recommend closing school facilities. "And again, we don't even know -- the diagnosis isn't confirmed because the lab work isn't completed," she said.
"We don't typically recommend school closure, but school closure decisions really belong with the schools and there can be a lot of different factors that go into their choices there," Deti added. "What we want people to know at this point is there is no cause for widespread public health concern related to a possible meningitis case in Carbon County."
Deti added that the state health department was not involved in cleaning the four schools which were closed Thursday.
She did not have information regarding the differing statements from the superintendent and the state health department.
"We really don't have details on how that occurred, but we do know that the laboratory work has not been completed, and so there has been no specific diagnosis," Deti said.
Deti explained that a number of forms of meningitis exist.
"Some are viral, and there are even several types of what's called bacterial meningitis," Deti continued. "Of those types, only one is even a limited public health concern. So we don't know that that's what the student may be ill with, and when that is found, what we'll typically recommend is preventive treatment for really close contact of that ill individual."
Deti said she has not personally been in communication with Copeland. When asked about the department's interaction with the superintendent, Deti responded, "I don't know that we've connected directly, but I know that we've been talking to people in the county."
Deti said she is not aware of symptoms which may have been exhibited by the fourth-grader who was hospitalized.
"It would be inappropriate of me to talk about those kinds of specifics related to this student," Deti responded when asked if the department knew whether the fourth-grader had exhibited symptoms consistent with a case of bacterial meningitis.
The department, Deti said, didn't want Wyomingites to worry more than necessary, in general.
"Ill individuals who have symptoms, you know, you deal with their illnesses," Deti said. "But we don't want there to be widespread public health concern in Carbon County. We've been getting questions from other areas of the state as well."
"In general, we do want to remind people that the most effective way to prevent bacterial meningitis, most types, is vaccination," Deti said.
When asked about the department's role in confirming a diagnosis for the fourth-grader, Deti said the department will work with local health personnel who are involved in treatment.
"Because this is something that potentially could be a limited public health concern," Deti told K2 Radio News. "And then we'll follow up with recommendations, working with the community and family members."
"We just want to reassure people that there is no cause to be worried across the board here," Deti said. "We don't yet have a diagnosis specifically for this student who was mentioned by the school, and even it that is confirmed, the treatment that we would recommend is generally just going to be for close contacts of that student."
Copeland did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment from K2 Radio News following the district's statement Friday afternoon.