After days of wondering what took the life a an 18-year-old Broad Run High School student in Loudoun County, VA, the mystery is now over. In a report Friday, Nancy Bull, an administrator in the northern district of the Virginia medical examiner’s office reported that Madison Small had died Tuesday of Neisseria sepsis, a bloodstream infection by the bacterium, Neisseria meningitidis, the same agent that causes meningococcal meningitis.
Small, a senior at Broad Run HS, was taken ill Monday afternoon and by Tuesday, school officials reported on her death via an email from School Principal Dave Spage.
Although, Loudoun County officials have not named Miss Small by name, they have acknowledged a confirmed death from meningococcal meningitis in the county, which has prompted numerous calls from concerned residents.
“Our thoughts are with the family during this very difficult time,” said Dr. David Goodfriend, Director of the Loudoun County Health Department. “The Health Department is evaluating all of the reports that we received to identify whether anyone is at an increased risk of infection.”
While there is currently no evidence of a meningitis outbreak in the community, Dr. Goodfriend stresses the importance of frequent hand washing because it is one of the most efficient ways to help prevent the spread of many types of communicable diseases. Parents and concerned residents should also seek medical evaluation if any symptoms develop.
Meningitis, an infection of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord, can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium is important because the severity of illness—and the treatment—differ.
The more common symptoms of meningitis include fever and chills, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, photosensitivity (sensitivity to bright light) and possibly a rash. Infants and young children may be sleepy, irritable and feed poorly. It can take from two to 10 days from the time of exposure until symptoms develop.
The bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis are spread by direct contact with secretions (saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus) of an infected person. This can occur when an infected person coughs or sneezes in someone’s face, or by kissing or sharing personal items such as eating utensils, cups, water bottles, or lip balm/lipstick.
“The most effective way to protect you and your child against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to complete the recommended vaccine schedule. In addition to vaccination, the best way to prevent the spread of meningococcal meningitis is to not share personal items and to wash hands frequently, especially before eating,” said Goodfriend.
Reports note that this is the first confirmed case of meningococcal disease in the school system in two years.
The school announced that on Monday April 13 there will be a visitation at 4:00 pm followed by a service at 6:00 pm for Madison Small. The location is St. Theresa’s.