A case of meningitis at l is being investigated, the first one reported in Ocean County this year.
The affected student, whose name or grade was not released, was tested, and the school underwent a thorough disinfecting, officials said. A letter was sent home with every student and posted on the Toms River Regional Schools website.
The last cases of meningitis that were reported in Ocean County were in two adults, one in April 2011 and one in May 2011, spokesperson Leslie D. Terjesen.
The spread of meningitis, an infection caused by a bacteria spread by close contact such as sharing eating utensils, can be lessened by simple household disinfectants, said Terjesen.
School spokesperson Tammi Millar said the school is taking extra precaution in response to the meningitis.
"East Dover Elementary School has been provided with hand-sanitizers for each classroom and as a precaution the Toms River Regional maintenance department is cleaning and sanitizing all impacted areas, including transportation," she said in a prepared statement.
A letter to families said the chance of additional students and their families becoming ill is small.
Terjesen said simply being in the same classroom as an affected student is not enough to spread meningitis. Nevertheless the county health department established a special phone extension — 732-341-9700, extension 7515 — to field calls from concerned parents.
Terjersen said the meningitis case has been a cooperation of the school, its staff and the county health department.
"We've been assisting all day," Terjesen said. The East Dover School nurse took in the student and interim Assistant Superintendent Mike Pizza called the county health department, Terjesen said, as the process unfolded this morning.
The county staff and its epidemiologist responded and tested the affected student, Terjesen said. The school was disinfected thereafter.
Here is the contents of the letter distributed today:
We have been notified by the Ocean County Health Department that one of our students has been diagnosed with meningitis. While this can be upsetting, the chance of you or your child also becoming ill with this disease is very small. Public health and school personnel are working together to protect the health and safety of all students and staff. The following information will help you understand the situation.
Meningitis is an infection that can be caused by bacteria. The bacteria is spread by close contact with someone who has the illness. Examples of close contact would be kissing, sharing cups, bottles or eating utensils with the ill person, or coming in contact with coughs or sneezes of the ill person. Being in the room with the ill person is not considered close contact.
Taking antibiotics can prevent meningitis from developing in persons who are identified as close contact.
Even after exposure to the bacteria, it is very unusual to get infected with the illness. It takes 2-10 days before symptoms appear.
When a person becomes ill with meningitis, the symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and a rash. These symptoms need immediate medical attention because the disease can progress rapidly. Early treatment is important.
As a general rule, you can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases by washing hands frequently, covering your nose and mouth with tissues when coughing or sneezing, and not sharing eating utensils, toothbrushes, cups, drinking glasses or water bottles.
If you need additional information, please contact the Ocean County Health Department at 732-341-9700, extension 7515. The school is not authorized to release information on the infected student. School administrators have been working closely with public health officials and will continue to monitor the situation intently.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation in the matter.
Joseph A. Pizza
Interim Assistant Superintendent