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Published: Tuesday, 11/27/2001

Antibiotic delivery decelerates in Huron


HURON, Ohio - Tracy Neilson had a simple reason for bringing her two sons to Woodlands Elementary School yesterday to receive antibiotics.

“I don't want them to get sick,” the Huron woman said after picking up two small orange bottles of Rifampin, a liquid medication.

Ms. Neilson and sons Miles, 8, and Derrick, 5, joined a smattering of other parents and children who picked up antibiotics in the wake of a bacterial meningitis scare at the school.

A first grader, Hannah Edwards, 7, died last week of Meningococcal meningitis.

“We came back to the news Saturday night,” said Angie Mingus, who had been in Florida with her family over Thanksgiving. “It's just precautionary. Better safe than sorry.”

“It's scary,” said her son, Kevin, a 7-year-old second grader.

“I just wanted to make sure they're safe,” said Jaber Elgirsh of Huron, who took his daughter, Mawaheb, 10, and son, Moses, 5, to get the medicine. “It's sad, what happened.

“I feel sad for that family, and I don't want it to happen to my kids,” Mr. Elgirsh said.

Erie County health officials have distributed antibiotics to about 700 students and staff at the school since Hannah's death Nov. 19.

Classes were canceled at the school yesterday, and a clinic was set up in the cafeteria to provide the antibiotics to students and staff members who missed getting them at a local hospital last week.

“We set it up so families coming back from vacation would have one more opportunity to get the medicine,” said Lyle Rowe, the school's principal.

Just 14 people received medicine yesterday at the school, said Connie Lamb, a spokeswoman for Firelands Corporate Health Center, which helped coordinate the drug distribution.

Ms. Neilson said her family was visiting relatives in Saginaw, Mich., for Thanksgiving and missed getting the antibiotics for her sons last week. She also missed getting the news about the clinic at Woodlands, and had gotten the boys ready for school yesterday.

“Miles went out to get the school bus, and it went right by him,” she said. “It was empty. We didn't know school was canceled. I was going to go to the hospital [for antibiotics], but then Miles' teacher called us and told us they were doing it here.”

Children and their parents sat at tables in the nearly empty cafeteria, filling out forms and waiting for the youngsters to be weighed.

Dr. Donald Smith, Erie County health commissioner, said children were weighed so nurses could determine the correct amount of the liquid antibiotic, which is to be taken in four doses 12 hours apart. Cipro was prescribed for adults.

Health officials said only students and staff from Woodlands were being given the antibiotics, which kill bacteria in the nose and throat.

Bacterial meningitis spreads through contact with the nose and throat secretions of an infected person.

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that causes meningitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord and brain area, the blood infection known as meningococcemia, or both.

Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, confusion, and a rash.

A second meningitis case at the school, involving a 9-year-old student, has been diagnosed as viral meningitis, a less serious and unrelated condition, Dr. Smith said.

“We were alarmed, because they were from the same school, but it would just be a coincidence,” he said. “But we have to play it safe.”

A 55-year-old Perkins Township woman was admitted to a Cleveland hospital over the weekend with symptoms of meningitis.

Dr. Smith said preliminary tests of blood and spinal fluid were negative for bacterial meningitis. Additional tests will be done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They're calling it a probable viral meningitis case,” she said. “We're hoping it is viral. If it is, everybody will feel much safer. And if it isn't, then at least we've treated everybody.”

Health officials believe Hannah may have died from the same type of infection that caused a meningitis outbreak in June in Alliance, Ohio.

In that case, two high school students died and a third was hospitalized. More than 40,000 people in that eastern Ohio town received vaccinations or antibiotics.

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