BY JON CRONIN
The city Health Department is investigating a case of meningitis at PS 63 in Ozone Park and asking parents to keep an eye on their children’s health in the coming days.
Julien Martinez, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said that the agency was working closely with the city’s Department of Education on the matter.
“The safety and wellbeing of students is our top priority,” he said. “Cases of the meningococcal disease are extremely rare in New York City and we are working closely with the DOE to notify families with children at the school. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommended medication to classmates and staff who may have had close contact with the child and are closely monitoring the situation.”
However, Martinez said that the incident had been mischaracterized by some media outlets.
“Although some news outlets have labeled [it as such], this is not an outbreak,” he said. “It is one confirmed case.”
Concerned parents are advised to look for fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and rash. Should these symptoms appear, they should contact their child’s pediatrician and notify the Health Department’s poison control center by calling 212-746-7667.
In a letter distributed to all parents at the school, the DOH stated that meningitis “is caused by a bacteria named Neisseria meningitidis. This bacteria can also cause sepsis, or an infection of the blood, which can be deadly if not treated. The bacteria spreads between people in close contact with each other through coughing, sharing food, sharing eating or drinking utensils, such as cups or water bottles, and kissing.”
The DOH also wrote in the letter that the agency does not believe that other students came into contact with the child who has meningitis.
In a meningitis fact sheet supplied by the DOH, the agency noted that there are two different meningococcal vaccines: MenACWY and meningococcal B. It states that the MenACWY vaccine protects against four types of meningococcus bacteria, is recommended for 11 to 12 year olds and a second booster dose is recommended at age 16.
“Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges,” according to the Center for Disease Control. “This inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, but can be a result of injury, cancer or certain drugs.”
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x`125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.