PROVIDENCE, R.I.and NORWICH, Conn. — More than a dozen children at a day care have been given preventative antibiotics as a precaution after a toddler there died of a suspected bacterial infection, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.
The 13-month-old child, whose name has not been made public, died Tuesday of a suspected meningococcal infection, a Health Department spokeswoman said. The child had been exhibiting symptoms since Friday, she said.
Dr. William Horgan the Medical Director of Emergency Services at Backus Hospital in Norwich says those symptoms which can include a headache, stiff neck, fever, rash, and sometimes seizures can be seen within four hours of infection.
“Especially with rash and a fever are very concerning and you want them to seek medical care immediately,” says Dr. Horgan.
13 children at the Children’s Workshop in Warren were given antibiotics as a precaution. The Rhode Island Health Department worked with the day care to identify the victim’s close contacts in the 10 days before the symptoms began, the spokeswoman said.
She said there is no threat to any other child at the center.
Dr. Horgan says it’s not easy to catch the suspected bacterial infection which is aggressive and is spread through droplets.
“So there are secretions from your nose or your mouth,” says Dr. Horgan. “You have to be in very close contact with someone to actually contract the illness.”
Children’s Workshop President and CEO Maggie Teller said the day care remains open, and staff members are working closely with the Health Department and the state Department of Children, Youth and Families. The Children’s Workshop has 19 locations across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“We’re really saddened and grieving this loss because all our children are part of our larger family,” Teller said.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Health Department, visited the day care Wednesday to answer questions from parents and employees.
Meanwhile, the department is working to confirm that the infection was caused by meningococcal bacteria, which can sometimes — but not always — lead to meningitis, a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
In February, two students at Providence College were hospitalized with meningococcal meningitis. People who had close contact with the students were given antibiotics, and health officials recommended that all students living on campus receive a new vaccine considered effective against type B meningitis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children be vaccinated against meningococcal disease at age 11 or 12.
Susan Dibb a registered nurse with the Uncas Health District in Norwich agrees.
She says to protect your kids from being infected you should have them wash their hands regularly, don’t share utensils or cups, and get the recommended vaccinations.
“Not to say that it’s one hundred percent guarantee cause some kids even with their vaccines do get them but you’ve got a much better chance avoiding things like meningitis with that,” says Dibb.
Meningococcal bacteria are spread through saliva during close or lengthy contact, but most of the bacteria are not as contagious as the germs that cause the common cold or the flu, according to the CDC.
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