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Community mourns student's loss

LAURIE EVERETT Mt. Juliet News Managing Editor • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 9:43 PM

The Mt. Juliet community is mourning the loss of 9-year-old Sam McLeod, a West Elementary School student who died Friday from a non-contagious form of bacterial meningitis.

His death falls on the heels of 18-year-old Middle Tennessee State University student Jacob Nunley's death from meningitis on Sept. 10.

McLeold's funeral was Monday at Tulip Grove Baptist Church.

School officials said the entire community is saddened by McLeod's sudden death. His brother goes to school at Wilson Central High School and is a band member.

On Monday, Tennessee Department of Health officials conducted a press briefing about what they said was a "cluster" of meningitis cases in Nashville.

McLeod was not part of that cluster, according to TDH officials. The cluster is connected to a fungal type of meningitis that happend among older people who received standard epidurals at the St. Thomas Neurosurgeon Surgery Center in Nashville. TDH officials reported they have 12 confirmed cases of the fungal meningitis, and McLeod was not one of them.

Two of the 12 have died, according to TDH officials. The cases are not related to McLeod. Officials said 737 people who received the epidural have been contacted and were asked to relay any symptoms they might have. TDH officials said they are investigating how the meningitis could have happened, and they are researching if some equipment could have been contaminated.

According to Dr. Lori MacDonald with the Mid Cumberland Regional State Health Department, McLeod attended school early last week but became sick Thursday and was eventually admitted to Vanderbilt Medical Center. She said there was no apparent cause of the illness, which in this case was not contagious. A viral meningitis also exists.

Wilson County Director of Schools Mike Davis also said he did not know how the young boy contracted the illness.

"We've taken all precautions and now we are just praying for the family," he said. "No one at the school is at risk."

Some of the symptoms of a bacterial meningitis infection may show up in a person by a sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. It will often have other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and confusion, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Babies younger than 1 month old are at a higher risk for severe infections, like meningitis, than older children. In newborns and infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The infant may appear to be slow or inactive (lack of alertness), irritable, vomiting or feeding poorly. In young infants, doctors may look for a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on infant’s head) or abnormal reflexes, which can also be signs of meningitis.

Later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very severe with seizures, and coma. For this reason, anyone who thinks they may have meningitis should see a doctor as soon as possible, according to the CDC website.

Bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

It is important that treatment be started as soon as possible. Appropriate antibiotic treatment of the most common types of bacterial meningitis should reduce the risk of dying from meningitis to below 15 percent, although the risk remains higher among young infants and the elderly.

The most effective way to protect a child against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to complete the recommended vaccine schedule. There are vaccines for three types of bacteria that can cause meningitis: Neisseria meningitis (meningococcus), Streptococcus pneumonia (pneumococcus), and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Antibiotics may be recommended for close contacts of people with meningococcal meningitis. Antibiotics may also be recommended for the entire family if a family member develops severe Hib infection and there’s a high risk person in the house. This is to decrease the risk of spreading disease to a high risk person, since they are at increased risk for severe disease. A doctor or local health department can tell if there’s a high-risk person in the home and whether antibiotics are needed.

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