Meningitis suspected in Surrey student’s sudden death

Warning issued after Clayton Heights Secondary teen passes away from apparent deadly bacterial infection.

Brandon Kurtz

A health warning has been issued after a 15-year-old boy at Surrey’s Clayton Heights Secondary died this week of an apparent bacterial meningiccocal infection.

Students at the Cloverdale-area high school received a letter from Fraser Health Authority on Thursday explaining one of their classmates had passed away and that meningitis is the suspected cause. Authorities are still awaiting test results, however.

Tributes on Facebook began to pour in almost immediately for the victim, Brandon Kurtz.

“Brandon was a role model to us all and will always be remembered,” wrote one person.

“I will be praying for the family,” said another.

Surrey School District spokesman Doug Strachan said counsellors were made available to grieving students at the school.

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.

Fraser Health does not believe there is a risk to the general student population at Clayton Heights, and says it takes more than sharing a classroom space to become infected. The bacteria is spread by direct contact with the saliva of an infected person, such as sharing a water bottle or a musical instrument.

Public health nurses will be administering preventive antibiotics to close contacts of the victim, or anyone displaying symptoms.

Health officials are attempting to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the bacteria between Sept. 8 and 19, the most dangerous contact period.

Anyone experiencing symptoms or who had close contact with the student is asked to call the Cloverdale Public Health Unit at 604-575-5100 or HealthLink BC at 811.

– with files from CTV