La Crescenta High student tests positive for bacterial meningitis

Times Staff Writer

A student at Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta has tested positive for bacterial meningitis and a second is suspected of having the rare but dangerous disease, Los Angeles County health officials said Tuesday.

The disclosure prompted more than half of the school’s 3,000 students to flock to the school with their parents to receive oral antibiotics provided by county Department of Public Health officials. Officials said they will continue dispensing the pills today for the disease, which is more serious than viral meningitis.

Myrna Aguila, a nursing supervisor with the county Public Health Department in Glendale, said the risk is to those who have had very close contact with someone infected or carrying the bacteria. She said the disease can be spread through saliva -- kissing, sharing a cigarette or a drink, or living in the same home as people with the disease.


Still, she said officials would not turn down anyone seeking the antibiotic, even if they did not appear to have been exposed.

The affliction, also known as meningococcal disease, strikes about 2,600 people in the United States each year, killing about 10% to 15%, according to the California Department of Health Services website. The agency added that an additional 11% to 19% lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have brain damage or suffer seizures or strokes.

Symptoms include fever, severe headache, a stiff neck, vomiting, a decreased level of consciousness and seizures.

The disease is most common in infants under a year old and in people with certain medical conditions, such as having no spleen.

College students living in dormitories also are at increased risk.

Gail Johnson, head counselor at Crescenta Valley High, which is in the foothills above Glendale, said administrators learned of the problem early Tuesday after being contacted by the father of the student suspected of having the disease. She said administrators alerted students and their parents throughout the day, and public health officials started giving out the antibiotic at the school at 6 p.m.

For more information, residents can contact the county’s Glendale Health Center at (818) 500-5760.