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Gautier students diagnosed with meningitis

A student at Gautier Middle School has been diagnosed with meningitis, a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection that can be spread to others.

School officials said the girl has been hospitalized since last Friday and has not been at school since March 18.

Christy Tingle, a Pascagoula School District nurse, said the girl is responding well to treatment.

“She was diagnosed with presumptive bacterial meningitis,” Tingle said. “Her lab tests are not showing meningitis, but she has all the clinical symptoms.”

The district sent a letter to parents on Wednesday explaining the situation.

The state Health Department is following the case and, based on what the student told doctors, a dozen students and two teachers are on antibiotics.

“That’s strictly a safety precaution,” Tingle said. “None of the teachers or students have any symptoms.”

Symptoms of meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, vomiting, sensitivity to light and possibly a rash.

Meningitis is spread through air droplets and by direct contact with secretions from the nose and throat of an infected person, such as coughing and kissing

A vaccine is available to prevent the disease, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends immunization against meningitis for all adolescents 11 to 18 years old.