Fairfax student dies after a four-day hospitalization for meningitis/encephalitis

A 16-year old Chantilly high school student died last week after a four-day hospitalization for meningitis/encephalitis. The cause does not appear to be bacterial meningitis. However, an autopsy is pending and investigation is underway.

Another 16-year old Chantilly high school student is hospitalized with similar symptoms. At this time, laboratory tests have not confirmed the cause of illness but do suggest that this illness is not bacterial meningitis. The Fairfax County Health Department has been informed that the patient’s condition seems to be improving.

Meningitis, an infection of the fluid of a person’s spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain, can be caused by viruses or bacteria. Bacterial meningitis is a more serious form of the disease. Viral meningitis is more common, less severe, and most people with normal immune systems recover fully. The virus is spread by direct contact with secretions (saliva, sputum or nasal mucus) of an infected person. Symptoms of viral meningitis include severe headache, stiff neck, fever, possibly a rash, and photosensitivity (sensitivity to bright light).

The Health Department is working closely with Fairfax County Public Schools and the students’ health care providers to determine whether these two cases are linked.

At this time, the Health Department does not recommend any specific action from the public. Parents and concerned residents should seek medical evaluation if any symptoms develop

The Health Department is also investigating the death of a 12-year old boy who lived in the Chantilly area and died suddenly yesterday of an unknown cause. An autopsy is pending; however, preliminary information indicates that this case was not due to meningitis and appears to be unrelated to other investigations.

The Health Department will provide updated information to the public as soon as it becomes available through its recorded information line at 703-246-3798. Over the weekend, people may leave their questions and contact information at this number.

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