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Doctor: Pearl River meningitis not contagious

A Pearl River High School student was diagnosed with meningitis this week, but new lab tests show there's no risk of transmission, the Rockland County Health Department's infectious disease specialist said Friday.

The student was last in school Wednesday and lasted only one period before heading home with symptoms of a cold, schools Superintendent John Morgano wrote in a letter to parents.

The student has since been hospitalized, and the school followed its own protocol by making sure the possibly infected classroom was "thoroughly cleaned," Morgano wrote.

But cultures of cerebrospinal fluid taken from the infected student revealed the student is not infected with the dangerous strain of bacterial meningitis that usually causes health scares, Dr. Anil Vaidian said.

"That's the take-home message," said Vaidian, who is the infectious disease director at the Rockland County Department of Health. "This is a form that's not transmissible."

Meningitis often provokes extreme caution because in severe cases it can be fatal and can cause permanent damage. About 500 people a year die from bacterial meningitis in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Common symptoms include vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, a stiff neck, high fever, a severe headache, confusion and lethargy. Symptoms typically develop within three to seven days, the CDC says.

Vaidian said it's important for the other students and their parents to know they aren't at risk.

"Having dealt with this before, sometimes school superintendents and faculty are caught in a bind, because if they don't explain things, they'll be blamed for not being proactive," he said. "But sometimes when you send a letter like that, all the information is not yet available . . . and it seems like it's overkill."

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