GNADENHUTTEN — Indian Valley High School will reopen Tuesday after the building was thoroughly cleaned Monday in response to the death of an Indian Valley student from bacterial meningitis.
The Tuscarawas County Health Department received notification Monday from the Tuscarawas County Coroner's Office that a blood culture from the student confirmed the presence of a bacteria called Streptococcus Pneumoniae. This bacteria can cause respiratory infections, ear infections, pneumonia and meningitis.
The student got sick on a school bus Thursday and was going to the school office to call home, but he first threw up again in the restroom.
"We cleaned the areas where any bodily fluids spilled," Superintendent Ira Wentworth said. "That would be the bus, where the young man vomited, and one restroom. We cleaned those areas thoroughly."
He said school custodians also wiped down desks, door knobs, water fountains and went over the entire building.
"We also disinfected the bus twice, which was above and beyond the recommendation from the health department," he said. Custodians used cleaning solutions that meet the standards of the health department
"The custodians did a fabulous job. They've been trained to clean up bodily fluids or blood-born pathogens."
He said closing the high school was not a suggestion from the health department.
"That was something we decided to do to go above and beyond the recommendation and give peace of mind to the parents," he said.
Tuscarawas County Health Commissioner Katie Seward said it is not entirely known why streptococcus pneumonia causes meningitis in some people. Risk factors might include decreased immune system, heart or pulmonary disease and smoking.
There are about 3,000 cases of bacterial meningitis in the United State each year. About 5 percent of the fatalities are of children younger than 5, Seward said. "Its most severe in younger children and older adults."
She said the disease is spread through respiratory droplets from infected people.
"When they dry, they are no longer contagious," she said. "It is a short-lived bacteria once it's out of the body."
While there is a vaccine against meningitis, Seward said officials are not sure if it would have prevented this occurrence because of multiple agents of the streptococcus bacteria. "Vaccination, while a good step, may not have prevented anything in this case."
She noted, "We are waiting for more information on testing from the Ohio Department of Health. That could give us more specifics on the bacteria itself."
Wentworth said the lab results were reassuring because the bacteria strain is known. "So all the recommendations they gave us out of the gate were appropriate for this situation. If the strain had been unknown, then we would have had a bigger issue to deal with."
He praised Seward and the health department for their cooperation throughout the entire process.
Signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis often occur abruptly and include fever, chills, headache and stiff neck. The progression of the disease is usually rapid. Individual symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient.
Jon Baker is a staff writer at The (Dover-New Philadelphia) Times-Reporter