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Student with meningitis attended Bellmore's JFK High School, Barry Tech

John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore on

John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore on Sept. 14, 2014. Photo Credit: Ian J. Stark

A student who attends John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore and Nassau BOCES in Westbury has been diagnosed with meningitis, officials said.

Anyone who had close contact with the student within the 10 days before May 3 should contact a doctor immediately, John F. Kennedy principal Lorraine Poppe wrote in a letter to parents Tuesday.

The student has not been identified, but school officials said the student had not been in classes this week.

On Wednesday, the principal of the Nassau BOCES center in Westbury notified staff, parents and guardians that it had received a report that a student there had been diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection. Barry Tech offers classes to students from across Nassau County.

Nassau County Department of Health spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning, “We are investigating one case,” adding that meant only one student who attends both schools has been diagnosed with the disease.

“We can’t give out any identifiable information [on the student] or violate any privacy,” Laurain added.

News 12, which did not identify the family, quoted a Facebook post by the student’s father. Thanking all the family’s supporters, the father added: “He is not completely out of the woods yet but he is on his way. It was a very stressful few days.”

The disease is spread by respiratory and oral secretions, so anyone who shared food, drink or utensils with or kissed the student could have been exposed.

Laurain said that teenagers are especially susceptible to the disease because of their habits of sharing those things as well as others that can involve the exchange of saliva.

“Parents should emphasize to their children also not to share lipstick — teenagers tend to do that,” Laurain said.

Casual contact “is not usually significant enough to cause concern,” Poppe wrote.

The disease infects the bloodstream and the meninges, the thin lining covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include high fever, vomiting, stiff neck and rash. Symptoms usually appear within five days of exposure, but can appear anytime between two and 10 days.

If caught early, it can be treated with antibiotics; if it is caught late, it can lead to brain damage, amputations and even death, according to information from the state Department of Health.

For more information, parents of Kennedy high school students can call the school’s health office at 516-992-1460; parents of Barry Tech students can call 516-622-6819.

With William Murphy and Joan Gralla

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