Meningitis strain still a mystery

Health officials continue to work to identify strain that claimed the life of Cloverdale-area student.

Brandon Kurtz.

It may never be determined which strain of bacterial meningitis claimed the life of Clayton Heights Secondary student Brandon Kurtz last week.

As of Tuesday, no new cases of the infection had been reported, Fraser Health Authority spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said.

Officials hadn’t confirmed the diagnosis, but hadn’t given up on identifying the precise strain.

It’s possible antibiotics used to treat the ailing 15-year-old may have killed off enough of the bacteria to preclude an identification.

“Nobody’s doubting that it’s a bacterial meningococcal infection,” Thorpe-Dorward said. “But it might be impossible to get an identification of the kind or strain.”

Students, parents and guardians, and staff at the Cloverdale-area high school received a letter last week explaining one of their classmates had passed away and that meningitis was the suspected cause.

Fraser Health does not believe there is a risk to the general student population at Clayton Heights, or the public at large.

“People shouldn’t be alarmed,” Thorpe-Dorward said. “All the steps are being followed.”

Public health nurses have now completed the task of administering preventative antibiotics to those who were known to have been in close contact with the student.

The bacteria is spread by direct contact with the saliva of an infected person, such as sharing a water bottle or a musical instrument.

Anyone in close contact with the boy between Sept. 8 and 19 and who has not yet gotten in touch with health officials is asked to contact the Cloverdale Public Health Unit at 604-575-5100 or HealthLinkBC at 811.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain, and can affect the lining of the brain or cause a blood infection.

It can lead to brain damage or death. The symptoms are flu-like and may include fever, a severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, confusion, vomiting, sensitivity to bright lights or a bruise-like rash.

About 10 per cent of people who develop the disease die, according to Health Canada.

– With files from Sheila Reynolds, Black PressFollow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.