WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) – A 6-year-old girl from Gardner died of meningitis Friday morning after a common bacterial infection spread to her bloodstream.

The strain of the disease was not contagious and did not involve the more serious meningococcal meningitis, said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, director of communicable disease control for the state Department of Public Health.

“This is sort of a rare and personal tragedy for that child and her family,” he said. “It does not have any implications for the community and public health.”

He said there are hundreds of similar cases in Massachusetts each year, but deaths are rare.

Meningitis is an infection of the brain, spinal cord and spinal fluid, and causes swelling of the brain. Any bacteria can cause such an infection, and the only similarity to meningococcal meningitis is that the brain or spine becomes infected, DeMaria said.

The more serious contagious form of meningococcal meningitis killed three people in Massachusetts last year, out of 40 reported cases. Six cases have been reported in New Hampshire recently, one of them fatal.

Allison Duffy, a spokeswoman for UMass Memorial Medical Center, confirmed that the girl died Friday morning.

AP-ES-01-02-04 1338EST

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