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According to information disseminated by School District 202 and the Evanston Health Department earlier this week, last weekend, an Evanston Township High School student “was diagnosed with a bacterial infection that is transmissible through nose and throat secretions.”
The information provided via the ETHS website and a letter to students’ homes did not further identify the bacterial infection, because of privacy requirements of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), said Health Department Director Evonda Thomas.
“It was an isolated case. We were notified [by ETHS] at an appropriate time,” Ms. Thomas told the RoundTable. “Those people who had come into direct contact with the student were alerted personally, which is an appropriate notification.” She also said “we fully expect the student to recover.”
Ms. Thomas also said there have not been any further cases of this type of infection reported to the Health Department.
The communication from the Health Department and ETHS said that “preventative treatment” was being recommended for all persons who had had “close contact” with the student and that although “normal classroom activity does not normally constitute the need for preventative treatment . . .as a precaution [the City’s health department and District 202] are notifying everyone at ETHS to be aware of these symptoms and seek treatment if these symptoms appear.”
The communication defined “close contacts” as including “household members, intimate contacts, healthcare workers performing mouth to mouth resuscitation or endotracheal intubation, or anyone directly exposed to the patient’s oral or nasal secretions [e.g., kissing or sharing eating utensils or beverage containers].”
Symptoms of the infection, according to the letter and web posting are “sudden onset of high fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and a rash. Sensitivity to light, sleepiness and confusion may also occur. The symptoms may develop rapidly, sometimes in a matter of hours, but usually over the course of one or two days after exposure.”
ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon told the RoundTable that ETHS officials were informed about the student’s condition on Monday afternoon, and they worked with the City’s Health Department to identify the individuals who had been in close contact with the student so that they could be advised as to appropriate preventative care. He also said that the District requested that the Health Department provide information that could be communicated to the more general ETHS community.
Ms. Thomas told the RoundTable that in such cases, “The school will typically contact the Health Department for direction and guidance on how to distribute information.”
D202 School Board President Mark Metz told the RoundTable that the Board had been informed about the infected student on Monday afternoon, and, although the Health Department had recommended notification to “close contacts” of infected persons, they indicated that the general public was not at risk. “ETHS decided to take the additional step of sending the letter home to parents and asked the department of … health to write it,” he said.