Health expert: D.C. schools did the right thing after meningitis death

WASHINGTON – It’s been a worrisome week for parents at one local school.

A cafeteria manager at John Carroll Nalle Elementary School, in Southeast D.C., died last weekend from pneumococcal meningitis, which is caused by bacteria.

The D.C. Department of Health sent a letter to Nalle parents and staff to ease concerns that the kids might be at risk. And while it wasn’t required, the school was disinfected.

Dr. Roberta DeBiasi, acting chief of infectious diseases at Children’s National Medical Center, says the school district acted appropriately and that nothing more needed to be done.

DeBiasi says deaths from pneumococcal meningitis are rare, and that kids are routinely immunized to prevent various pneumococcus diseases.

“It is one of the standard routine vaccines that all students receive for school entry,” she says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine – usually known as Prevnar – for all children younger than 5 years old.

DeBiasi says Prevnar has proven extraordinarily effective and “since that vaccine has been introduced, we have seen a reduction in the amount of pneumococcal disease.”

She says anyone who has had the vaccine – which includes the 13 strains “most associated with invasive disease” – is protected.

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