PARIS — Oxford Hills School District Superintendent Rick Colpitts has notified parents of a confirmed case of viral meningitis in SAD 17.

The affected student has been identified as a fifth-grader. Colpitts is prohibited from revealing specific information under federal law, but he said the notification to school officials appears to have been done quickly and the risk to others is slight.

“There is very minimal exposure risk to anyone else in the school,” Colpitts said Wednesday afternoon.

The student is recovering at home.

Colpitts said that while viral meningitis is considered a much less serious form than bacterial meningitis, school officials felt it was important to provide information to parents to ensure transparency.

He said school officials are not aware of any other bacterial meningitis cases in the area.

Colpitts said the elementary school principal was notified Sunday night by the child’s parent after the child was diagnosed. The principal notified Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hartnett, who notified the superintendent.

In a message sent late Tuesday to parents are enrolled in the SchoolMessenger program and sent home in paper form with all students Wednesday afternoon, Colpitts said school officials are working with epidemiologists at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

All parties agree that prevention is key.

Toward that effort, Colpitts said the custodial staff is redoubling efforts to clean surfaces such as table tops, door handles, restrooms and locker rooms during the day.

“Hand-washing is always an important precaution, and perhaps the single best way to prevent transmission,” Colpitts said in his message to parents. “As we enter the cold and flu season, recent news about viral meningitis serves as a reminder that good hygiene, adequate rest and healthful choices on a daily basis serve as our best defense.” 

He also asked parents to be mindful that there is a significant difference between viral meningitis and and bacterial meningitis. He attached a fact sheet to the message so parents are aware of CDC recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus.

Colpitts said about 2,000 of the 4,600 school community members who signed up for the SchoolMessenger program received the email Tuesday. Participants have the option of having text messages sent to their phone, receiving emails or a phone call, or a combination of all three. 

If school officials had considered the matter to be an emergency, all three systems would have been used and information may have been more specific, Colpitts said.

According to the Maine CDC fact sheet provided to parents, viral meningitis is a common disease and appears most frequently in the late summer and early fall. Most infected people will recover fully within a week. It appears most commonly in infants less than 1 year old but can affect persons at any age.

The virus can usually be spread to someone beginning about three days after the person is infected until the symptoms go away.

There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis, according to the Maine CDC fact sheet. Most patients recover completely on their own within seven to 10 days. Health care providers often will recommend bed rest, plenty of fluids and medicine to relieve fever and headache.

Two cases of viral meningitis were reported in mid September in the SAD 60 in the Berwick area, according to a message on the school district’s Web page. Four cases of viral meningitis were reported at Massabesic High School in Waterboro on Sept. 22, according to published reports.

John Martins of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said viral meningitis is not a reportable condition so no records are available. However, four cases of bacterial meningitis have been reported statewide from June through August. No information of the ages or locations of those reported cases were available.

[email protected]


Comments are not available on this story.