FRYEBURG – The meningococcal meningitis infecting a Fryeburg Academy student is unlikely to spread, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control.

“It’s uncommon to see outbreaks from this, or even second cases,” said Jeoff Beckett, assistant state epidemiologist with the MCDC.

The student was one of an estimated 21 students and staff from the academy who traveled to Europe. Beckett said the trip also included about 30 people from schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The academy informed the MCDC of the case on Thursday, according to Beckett. Since then, the MCDC has been in contact with the schools, their health departments, and the tour company that organized the trip. The state agency also contacted the federal CDC, which analyzes the seating charts of long-distance airliners that have carried a person with a serious disease and makes recommendations to passengers seated nearby.

Beckett said Monday that no additional cases of meningococcal meningitis have been reported in Maine, Massachusetts, or Connecticut since the Fryeburg student was hospitalized.

Meningococcal meningitis infects the spinal fluid and layers surrounding the brain. Its symptoms include headache, stiff neck, and fever. The bacteria that cause the illness can be transmitted through saliva, and the disease itself is treated with antibiotics.

Beckett said the illness is not easily transmitted, and that most second cases usually occur within three to four days of the initial infection.

“If any additional cases were going to happen, most of them were going to have happened already,” he said.

Beckett said the MCDC is advising the academy to take an “excess of caution.” They are looking for people who had persistent close exposure to the student and giving them a single dose of antibiotic.

A vaccine against the disease is available and recommended for middle school students and college freshmen, as well as people traveling to areas with frequent outbreaks of meningitis, namely sub-Saharan Africa.

Beckett said the area the students traveled to was not at high risk for outbreaks.


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