UNION TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Health officials believe that bacterial meningitis is responsible for the death of an 8-year-old in Hunterdon County.

The boy was in second grade at Union Township Elementary School. He died Wednesday morning after beginning to show symptoms on Sunday.

School officials said custodians at the small school have sanitized every doorknob, desktop and other surface to try to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

“We do not believe that there are going to be any additional cases,” John Beckley, Director of the Hunterdon County Health Department, told 1010 WINS. “We believe we’ve identified the 15 or so individuals who may have had close contact with the child. They have all been refered for treatment.”

Beckley said the meningitis invaded the boy’s bloodstream and rapidly caused his body to shut down. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, body ache, fatigue, vomiting and neck stiffness.

“It’s only in rare cases that the disease can find its way into the bloodstream of a person,” Beckley told CBS 2’s John Slattery.

It’s spread through prolonged, close contact like kissing and sharing drinks or eating utensils, or through coming into contact with coughs or sneezes of an infected person. It takes two to 10 days for the disease to develop.

The school’s superintendent said grief counselors were in the school for young classmates who suddenly lost a friend. Parents were notified of the death and the suspected disease.

It’s at least the second meningitis death this year of a New Jersey student and the County’s first case of the illness since 1998. A 17-year-old at Matawan Regional High School in Aberdeen died last month.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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