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    Less severe meningitis suspected

    An Osceola High student is hospitalized with what is believed to the viral, not bacterial, form of the disease.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- A 10th-grade student at Osceola High School has been admitted to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg with a probable case of viral meningitis.

    Though its symptoms are similar to bacterial meningitis, viral meningitis is less serious. Most people who contract the disease fully recover.

    The student's name was not released.

    "The only thing I've heard from the family is that it is probably viral meningitis," Osceola High principal Doug Smith. "There is a process of elimination to go through. That's where it is right now."

    This follows four reported cases of bacterial meningitis locally within the past three weeks. All of those students were released from hospitals and have fully recovered, said Diana Jordan, a registered nurse involved in communicable disease surveillance for the Pinellas County Health Department in St. Petersburg.

    Jordan said viral meningitis is not a reportable disease because it's not a major public health problem.

    "They're both bad for the people who have them, but the virus tends not to cause permanent, severe complications, and it rarely would cause someone to die," she said.

    The virus itself may be contagious, Jordon said, but the chances of getting meningitis from it is rare.

    Jordon said she did not know the condition of the student.

    Bacterial meningitis is a swelling of the membranes -- layers of tissue -- that cover the spinal cord. It is a rare but serious disease that can be treated with antibiotics but can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, severe headaches, and stiffening of the neck.

    School officials were notified by the student's family that she may have contracted viral meningitis, Smith said.

    He sent home letters to parents Wednesday telling them that "probable viral meningitis" had been diagnosed in a student. "I felt it was in the best interest of the families to let them know what was going on," Smith said.

    - Staff writer Maureen Byrne can be reached at 445-4163 or at byrne@sptimes.com

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