Meningitis scare at Great Neck North High School on Long Island

GREAT NECK, Long Island (WABC) -- Finals aren't the only thing students are worried about at John L. Miller Great Neck North High School.

An individual who students said is an employee at the school came down with Advanced Bacterial Meningococcal Disease. The Nassau County Department of Health is asking that anyone with prolonged exposure to that person now be treated with preventive antibiotics.

"There is no need to panic," Great Neck Superintendent Dr. Teresa Prendergast said in a letter. "Casual contact, as might occur in a regular classroom or office setting, is NOT usually significant enough to cause concern."

Instead, those who had more prolonged contact, totaling four hours or more, or close face-to-face contact with the person who became sick have been told to get preventive antibiotics from their health care professional.

Invasive infection after exposure to this bacteria is extremely rare, only about 1 percent, according to an infectious disease expert at Northwell Health.

However, this type of bacterial meningococcal infection is much more severe than any viral meningitis. It can cause death, and that is why people are receiving prophylactic antibiotics.

"Patients typically might have a rash," Northwell Health's Dr. David Hirschwerk said. "They feel very, very sick, and if they develop meningitis, can become confused and often have a stiff neck."

In the case at John L. Miller Great Neck North High School, the Nassau County Department of Health said the individual did not end up developing actual meningitis, since the bacteria never spread to the fluid in both the brain and spinal cord. The patient is now recovering.

Dates of concern for exposure include: May 14, 15, 16, 23, 24 and 25.

"It is definitely scary being in a school, finding out someone has something," Great Neck senior Shaiel Soleimani said. "I hope whoever has it feels better."

This meningococcal infection is rare, and there has only been one of its kind this year in Nassau County.

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