3-year-old in Virginia dies of meningitis

Photo courtesy of WRIC
Photo courtesy of WRIC (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

WRIC – RICHMOND — A child has died from meningococcal meningitis, according to the Chickahominy Health District.

3-year-old Riley Crowell's family says the toddler fell ill on Monday, was hospitalized on Tuesday and died on Wednesday.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help raise money for the child's funeral costs.

Dr. Thomas Frank of the Chickahominy Health District said the child's daycare center has been advised of the death, but he stressed that it is way too early to assume that the child contracted meningococcal meningitis from there.

Riley attended For Kids Only Child Care Center in New Kent County. A spokesperson said a letter was sent home to parents to alert them. Doctors warn caution is needed, but they also say not to panic.

"This form is quite rare," said Doctor Elizabeth Bigelow with Patient First.

What Riley had was a rare form of Bacterial meningitis called meningococcal meningitis. Doctors say this form is the most dangerous.

"Complication rate is higher with bacterial meningitis versus viral meningitis," said Bigelow.

"Very contagious but it has to be by very close contact so just being across the room from someone it's not as contagious as close contact," said Dr. Bigelow.

The Virginia Department of Health says they're working with Crowell's family as well as the child care center to identify others who may have had contact with the child, and giving antibiotics to those who may be at risk. Local doctors urge you to get your child vaccinated and use good hygiene like washing hands before eating, and if you do see symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

Doctors say the mortality rate for bacterial meningitis is only about 3 percent and in many cases it is treatable if identified in time.

According to the World Health Organization, meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis, a serious infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in 50 percent of cases if untreated.

The bacteria are transmitted from person-to-person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from carriers. Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters (such as a dormitory, sharing eating or drinking utensils) with an infected person (a carrier) – facilitates the spread of the disease. The average incubation period is 4 days, but can range between 2 and 10 days.

The WHO reports that the most common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started, 5 percent to 10 percent of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. Bacterial meningitis may result in brain damage, hearing loss or a learning disability in 10 percent to 20 percent of survivors.

A less common but even more severe (often fatal) form of meningococcal disease is meningococcal septicaemia, which is characterized by a haemorrhagic rash and rapid circulatory collapse.