Meningitis scare appears to be over
Tahoe Forest Hospital health officials have reported no new cases of meningitis since three Tahoe Truckee High School students were treated and released two weeks ago.
“There are only those three and they are all out of the hospital and doing great,” said Chris Spencer, infection control practitioner with Tahoe Forest Hospital District. “We haven’t had any other cases.”
TFH registered nurses worked with students and staff and Nevada County health officials to administer a single dose of the antibiotic Cipro on Dec. 15, the Friday before school got out for Christmas break. Spencer said that if it wasn’t for the commitment of hospital staff, TTHS leadership students and the community as a whole, a swift course of action might not have been possible.
“I made one phone call Thursday night to a coworker at Tahoe Forest Hospital explaining the situation and that I had no idea how to get enough licensed people to (distribute the antibiotic),” Spencer said.
On Friday morning, TFH nurses and staff members Barbara Beno, Stephanie Desmon, Bob Van Gelder, Terry and Tim Smith, Bev Schnobrich and Pat Grover donated their time to antibiotic distribution.
On the Thursday night before the distribution Denise Buglina, a Nevada County public health nurse, and Natalie Laughlin, a Placer County public health nurse, were joined by Laurel Holder, infection control coordinator, Sue McMullen and Colleen Bellon, all of Tahoe Forest Hospital, in making phone calls to the 250 students who left school prior to permission slip distribution.
The distribution of antibiotics was completed in 55 minutes to all of the students and staff.
“This was due in in large part to the organizational and problem solving skills of (TTHS) leadership students,” Spencer said. “Krista Anderson took charge, working with an amazing sense of cooperation from her peers Daniel Martinez, Kelly Collins, Kaitlin Steverman, Shannon Lankenau, Kyle Anderson, Becca Logan and Jasmine Eisenberg. These students also handled the distribution of permission slips late Thursday afternoon.”
Spencer said the purpose of distributing the antibiotic was to attack the carriers of the disease to keep others from becoming infected.
“We treated them and they all dispersed for two weeks,” Spencer said. “Now they’re all going to come back together again (when school starts Jan. 2). Our hope is that we reached all of the students.”
Health officials are looking to see if all three patients, who had no social connection, were infected by the same carrier or multiple carriers.
Spencer said while the scare is over, she is encouraging parents to take this opportunity to discuss with their children the dangers of sharing saliva-tainted items such as drinks, Chapstick and cigarettes.
All three students were successfully treated because their parents were quick in recognizing their children were truly sick, Spencer said.
Although meningitis symptoms start out flu-like, patients look extremely sick and are usually very pale and lethargic. A patient who was visiting Tahoe from Tennessee died at Tahoe Forest Hospital from meningitis in April. The patient, who was in his twenties, contracted the disease in Tennessee and was treated with an antibiotic, which he failed to take for the prescribed duration. He became very sick while on vacation and by the time he was admitted to the hospital it was too late to treat him.
“If someone tells you to take something, it’s really important to complete the medication,” Spencer said.
Spencer said the situation not only brought the community together, but highlighted the areas that need work in handling such outbreaks.
“The school staff were calm and very helpful,” Spencer said. “This was a great team effort between the hospital and the school district and public health.”
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A fair amount of snow is expected for Truckee this week, and highs are forecast to linger around freezing until at least Friday.