An epidemiologist at the St. Joseph County Health Department has confirmed to NewsCenter 16 that an 8-year-old Elkhart boy who died Wednesday did have bacterial meningitis.
Only a few cases of bacterial meningitis are reported every year in Elkhart County, and it is hard to pass it on.
However, it's a disease that comes on quickly and can kill.
While the second-grader did attend Elkhart's Woodland Elementary, he had just transferred there from Roosevelt Primary, where counselors were available.
Jodee Shaw, a spokeswoman for Elkhart Community Schools says, "A couple of students have talked with the counselors and they've gone into the classroom. The students are writing notes to the child and to his family and expressing their grief that way by just being able to say what's on their mind."
The boy is described by his teacher as, "Very caring and intelligent".
Fellow students say the boy was a "class clown" and liked to make people laugh.
Nursing Services Manager Peg Ramey of the Elkhart County Health Department wouldn't confirm the diagnosis, but did say bacterial meningitis is difficult to transmit. "Meningococcal disease can be very rapidly severe and in some cases fatal,” she explains. “This disease is rare. It doesn't show up that often. It's not really easily spread. People have to share saliva in one way or another to transmit the disease."
Bacterial meningitis can cause an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord or blood.
Babies, children and young adults are especially susceptible to the disease, which can be transmitted through the following ways:
Symptoms of Bacterial meningitis include:
Ramey says, “In Elkhart County we get approximately two cases a year reported and it usually occurs during the winter months."
While Woodland School parents were alerted to the possibility of the disease, it is close family members who would stand a greater chance of infection.
Family members would be given antibiotics to fight-off the disease.
Again, the boy who died isn't being identified because of privacy concerns.
A letter was sent home with Woodland students Thursday as a precautionary measure.
Health officials say Roosevelt students don't have to worry because the boy was last in attendance before he became contagious.
Bacterial meningitis is more likely to spread in a dorm or barracks atmosphere, which is why college students are encouraged to be vaccinated against it.