Meningitis goes away leaving few clues to its origin

ILWACO - After a tense couple of weeks, the viral meningitis outbreak that gripped area schools has been declared over.

"As far as I know everyone is happy and well and back at school," said Pacific County Health and Human Services Director for Ilwaco Kathy Spoor Tuesday morning.

Spoor said that there have been no further reports of cases related to the initial outbreak for more than a week. The illness came to light when it affected members of the Ilwaco High School varsity football team.

There was one adult confirmed as having the illness on Sept. 30 after undergoing a spinal tap procedure. However, that case was deemed unrelated to the outbreak at the schools. Spoor said there could still be others, but it is not required that health care providers report that particular illness and the health department has ceased active surveillance of it.

Spoor said that there will be a debriefing meeting held Oct. 30 for parties involved in the outbreak, including the Ocean Beach School District, Ocean Beach Hospital and the county health department. She said they will discuss what went right and what they could have done better during the situation.

"I think the biggest challenge for us is communication," said Spoor. "This was my first big experience with something like this."

In retrospect, Spoor said they will never know just where and how the virus came to the area.

"It's just so different with a viral illnesses," said Spoor. "These students may have had contact with other people in other communities. There's really no good way to identify where an initial outbreak may come from. It's really anybody's guess."

The viral meningitis outbreak was first identified on Sept. 18 when an IHS football player was diagnosed with the illness by way of a spinal tap - the only sure way to check for meningitis. It is used to differentiate between the milder viral form and the more life-threatening bacterial form. The following 12 days saw seven more students and one adult diagnosed as having the virus, while 15 others were listed as probable.

The illness was felt the hardest at area schools - most of the cases of the illness were among students at the junior/senior high school and one probable case at Hilltop School. The outbreak caused all extracurricular activities at IHS, including all sporting events, to be canceled during the two week span. All activities resumed last week [see page B2-3 for results].

Due to the rescheduling of some games missed, the schedules for varsity football and volleyball and JV football have changed. See corrected schedules above.

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