POMONA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A 12-year-old Rockland County child has died of bacterial meningitis, health officials said Monday.
Chrissy Gabriel, a sixth grader at St. Gregory Barbarigo Elementary School in Garnerville, died Saturday.
“It’s really sad, sad,” her father, Kesler Gabriel, told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello on Monday afternoon. “She loves children, and she was my lovely daughter.”
As 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported, Acting Rockland County Health Commissioner Kathleen Henry called the girl’s death a tragedy “for the family, for the schools, for everyone involved.”
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms including high fever, headache, stiff neck, and rash may appear two to 10 days after exposure.
Nationwide, about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis, including 500 deaths, occurred each year between 2003 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The girl’s illness came on very suddenly, officials announced Monday afternoon. They said she did not show any of the warning signs in the hours before she was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital in cardiac arrest.
“Oftentimes, again, there are no significant warning signs before it progresses so rapidly and leads to an untoward event and that happened to be the case with this individual,” Rockland’s acting medical director, Anil Vaidian, told CBS 2’s Aiello.
“She had some headaches, she went to bed and she could not be aroused in the morning,” Vaidian told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
As both Aiello and Diamond reported, bacterial meningitis is rare but is spread through close contact.
Health officials have notified classmates, parents and teachers and are continuing to look for other people who may have had close contact with the child. Already, the county health department has contacted 33 people who may be at risk. Several Spring Valley police officers and paramedics came into contact with the girl were also getting antibiotics as a precaution, CBS 2’s Aiello reported.
“They were offered prophylactic antibodies and, in fact, all of them accepted,” said Vaidian. “We’re pretty confident that we’ve identified the people that need to be identified.”
But Henry said officials are confident that no one else needs to be worried about his or her health.
“Community members that have children, of course, they’re very upset,” Henry said. “But we really are just taking care of the immediate context of the child.”
According to health officials, the bacterium is not as contagious as a cold or the flu.
Officials do not know how or where the girl contacted the strain of meningitis that took her life, which has not been seen in the county in a couple of years.
The school is on Easter break all this week, but the parish’s director, Father Joseph LaMorte, was hard at work trying to allay the concerns of worried parents.
“Easter Sunday morning has its own connotation of great hope, and then to get news like this and filter it out through the community, not such a good thing for us,” LaMorte told CBS 2’s Aiello.
“Everything is under control, and our next step now will be to reassure our students and their families and the family of this student who lost their life,” LaMorte added.
The school said it would have counselors on hand when it reopens next week.
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