Long Island teen dead from meningitis

Public health fears follow
January 25, 2008 2:52:04 PM PST
A tragic death on Long Island has led to public health concerns Friday afternoon. A teenager suddenly died from bacterial meningitis on Thursday. Now, officials want everyone who came in contact with him to be tested. Long Island reporter Emily Smith has the story.

This is a horrible day for students at Massapequa High School, where the flag is flying at half-staff as 17-year-old Michael Gruber is remembered.

The Nassau County Health Department says students need to be aware of the symptoms and go see the doctor.

Gruber went to bed Wednesday night with what seemed like the flu. He died a day later in the hospital.

His friends say they cannot believe he is gone.

"I saw him that day, and he seemed perfect," one friend said. "He just seemed like he was a little sick."

For students, officials say the risk of getting bacterial meningitis is low, unless they had extremely close contact with Gruber. Still, many students at the high school say they are horribly upset and on edge.

"My dad called me," a student said. "He's trying to schedule an appointment with the doctor, just like everybody else is."

The infection is spread by close contact with nose and throat discharges. Symptoms include a high fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and a rash.

Gruber also worked at a King Kullen grocery store in Massapequa and played on the St. Rose of Lima CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) basketball team.

Acting Nassau County Health Commissioner Abby Greenberg said the bacterial infection is known to progress quickly, but not usually quite so fast.

Gruber was the first person to die of meningococcal meningitis in Nassau County since 2004, Greenberg said. About 300 people nationwide die of the disease every year, and 2,500 are infected, according to the state Health Department.

Click Here for the CDC page on meningitis.

Click Here for more information from the Nassau County Department of Health.