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Meningitis Case
Alarms County

By Jeanne Sager
GRAHAMSVILLE — March 25, 2003 – Health officials in Sullivan County are trying to avoid a scare.
A 28-year-old Tri-Valley Central School bus driver, Kenneth Smith, died in the early hours of Friday morning from bacterial meningitis.
Since then, there’s been a run on Catskill Regional Medical Center for treatment. But there is nothing to worry about, said Carol Ryan, director of Sullivan County Public Health Nursing.
“None of the people from the bus are thought to be at risk,” she said. That includes children or other bus employees.
Smith’s case seemed to be tied to a “long-standing ear infection that wasn’t treated properly,” Ryan said.
There are several types of meningitis which can be contagious and hazardous to those who come in contact with the infected, even different types of the bacterial form of the disease.
“But,” Ryan said, “preliminary tests show this is not one of those types.”
Pneumococcal meningitis, which took the life of the young driver, is “rarely seen to spread to other people.”
Ryan is asking that people do not stop by CRMC for treatment, because there is no need, and the hospital is being overwhelmed.
According to Tri-Valley Superintendent George Vanderzell, letters were sent home to parents in the district explaining the situation, and parents of the children on the driver’s bus were notified directly.
Parents should not fear for their children, and there is no outbreak of meningitis coming to Grahamsville, Ryan said.
“This happens from time to time in the community,” Ryan said. “It’s not that unusual to see a case of pneumococcal meningitis sporadically.”
Smith had worked for George Gershowitz Bus Company, the school’s contracted bus service, for quite some time, Vanderzell said, and he was a graduate of the Tri-Valley district.
Please see Smith’s obituary on page 10A.

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