Chrissy Gabriel, Rockland meningitis victim, 'never exhibited the classic signs'
Chrissy Gabriel fell asleep on Saturday with what her family thought was a harmless case of pink eye.
Tragically, the 12-year-old Spring Valley girl never woke up.
Yet even if someone had known the symptoms of the disease that would take her life, he still might not have been able to save Chrissy, said Dr. Anil Vaidian, the acting Rockland County medical examiner.
"She never exhibited the classic signs of meningitis," Vaidian said of the disease, a severe bacterial infection of the bloodstream. "They include headaches, fever, stiff neck."
As the community reels from the news of a deadly disease in their midst, doctors are treating 33 people who had contact with Chrissy as a precaution, Rockland County health officials said Monday.
Several first responders who aided the girl, along with teachers and classmates, were treated with oral antibiotics, Vaidian said.
On Monday, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin confirmed the student's death.
The girl was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern on Saturday by the Spring Hill Ambulance Corps about 6:30 p.m. The illness overtook her rapidly, and she died at the hospital, Vaidian said. An autopsy Sunday determined the cause of death.
Jasmin said the timing of Chrissy's sudden death heightened the shock in Spring Valley.
"When you hear something in your own community like this, it's hurtful to see a young girl and family that is going through a bad situation," Jasmin told News12. "There's no way to describe a tragedy like this, especially during Easter week."
Meaghan McDade of Haverstraw told News12 that the news made her nervous because she feared the illness could spread.
"That would definitely be my concern because my niece goes to the Field School and that's pretty close," McDade said. "It's scary."
Chrissy, a resident of an apartment complex at 15 Park Ave., was in sixth grade at St. Gregory Barbarigo School, a Catholic elementary school in Garnerville.
Parents were notified during the weekend about the death. The school's classrooms will be disinfected before students return from spring break next week. The Catholic Archdiocese of New York will provide counselors and a crisis team to work with students April 9.
The risk to those who had casual contact with Chrissy is low, according to a Rockland County Health Department news release.
The state Health Department advises that only people who have been in close contact with someone suffering from the illness need preventive treatment. Meningitis is treated with antibiotics. There are three available vaccines.