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Update: More than 20,000 RI students kept home after illness report

By bobSP     Jan 4, 2007 in Lifestyle
Rhode Island officials cancelled school Thursday for more than 20,000 students while health experts search for any connection between a suspected case of meningitis and a second-grader's encephalitis death two weeks ago.
Rhode Island officials are invesigating a link between the illness a student at Hopkins Hill School reported last Wednesday and mycoplasma. Mycoplasma is an infection which is blamed for encephalitis-- encephalitis that killed a student and sickened two other children.
"Calling it an outbreak at the time is premature," Dr. David Gifford, director of the state's Public Health Department, said at an early morning conference Thursday.
Mycoplasma pneumonia, or "walking pneumonia," is common but very rarely progresses to meningitis or encephalitis. Meningitis is an inflammation of membranes protecting the brain and spinal cord that requires hospitalization in severe cases. Encephalitis also involves brain inflammation caused by a virus.
The school's closings affected three communities: Warwick, Coventry and West Warwick. Extracurricular activities at the schools in these communities were also cancelled for the rest of the week.
More epidemiologists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are headed to Rhode Island to assist the 6 scientists already there working on this case.
Health and school oficials will meet this weekend to decide when public schools should reopen. Blood tests will be done to determine if the Hopkins Hill student was infected with meningitis.
The story truly began a month ago when a second-grade student in Warwick, Dylan Gleavey, died from encephealitis. One of his classmates suffered from a mild case of encephalitis but went on to recover.
I'm sure those kids are feeling pretty lucky right now, but I find the thought of a meningitis outbreak very scary. I feel for the poor family who lost such a young child to encephealitis.. defintiely not something you hear about every day.
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