Two northern Virginia students have died from mysterious illnesses and another has been hospitalized with similar symptoms, health officials said.
Two northern Virginia students have died from mysterious illnesses and another has been hospitalized with similar symptoms, health officials said. Courtney “Kay” Richard, a 16-year-old sophomore at Chantilly High School, had been hospitalized for four days before dying Thursday from an unidentified form of meningitis. A 12-year-old boy from the Chantilly area also died Thursday from a mysterious illness, although health officials believe his death was not caused by meningitis. Another 16-year-old student from Chantilly High School has been hospitalized with similar symptoms, officials said Friday. Her identity was not released, but health officials told The Washington Post that she was in stable condition at Inova Fairfax Hospital. While officials say the two deaths and illness are a coincidence, news sparked concern among parents in the area. “I would just like to know: Where did she get it” said Elizabeth Wright, whose daughter was a friend of Richard’s. “It seems very random, and my kids are healthy, but I think as far as we know, Courtney was healthy, too.” According to lab tests, Richard did not appear to have bacterial meningitis, the more deadly form of the disease. But tests for the more common viral meningitis also came back negative. “Every test that could be ordered has been ordered, and everything has come back negative so far,” said Kimberly Cordero, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Health Department. “Nothing is being ruled out.” Meningitis is an infection of the fluid that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. The symptoms typically are severe headaches, a stiff neck, eye sensitivity to bright light, drowsiness, confusion, nausea and vomiting. It is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids such as the saliva or the mucus of an infected person. Virginia Department of Health spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said bacterial meningitis is life-threatening if not properly treated, but viral meningitis is rarely fatal. Health officials said equally puzzling was the death Thursday of the 12-year-old Franklin Middle School student. Cordero said he did not show any symptoms of meningitis before dying at his home. A cause of death could take up to a week to determine, she said. “It didn’t appear to be meningitis,” Cordero said. “We know that the child died suddenly as opposed to having symptoms first and then becoming more ill.” (Source: The Associated Press, June 2004)