2002-10-31 / Front Page


By Charles Rogers


By Charles Rogers

A letter from the principal of P.S. 276 issued this week explaining that the death of a student was "an isolated case" has apparently alleviated concern and worry by parents and fellow students.

The 10-year-old male fifth grade student, whose name was not released, died on Friday, October 25th of viral encephalitis after having been taken ill at the beginning of October, according to Principal Diane Weiss.

Parents expressed their concern after rumors began to spread that the boy died of a contagious disease, but quick work in issuing the letter allayed their worries.

"We had a representative of the Department of Health address the topic at our PTA meeting last week," Weiss told the Courier exclusively, noting that it was "interesting" that the wrong word got out originally. In separate anonymous calls to the Courier early Monday, a parent and a teacher — not from P.S. 276, the teacher said — expressed worry about how the boy died and asking if, perhaps, the school district was holding back information.

Whewn the Courier called P.S. 276 Assistant Principal Warren Glenn directing the inquiy to District Superintendent Paula LeCompte Speed, who said a letter was being sent as promptly as possible.

The letter to parents states that the disease is an infection of the brain tissues.

"Although the specific virus causing this child’s illness has not yet been identified, the tests for West Nile Virus were negative. This is an isolated case and there are no other children with a similar illness at our school," wrote the principal Weiss.

The letter continues: "However, regardless of which virus caused this child’s illness, preventive treatment is generally not recommended for close contacts of patients with viral encephalitis, including contacts at school. It is very unlikely that any school contacts will develop this illness.

"Symptoms of viral encephalitis include sudden fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, photophobia (abnormal sensitivity to light), mental changes (confusion or irritability), drowsiness and unsteady gait. Severe complications can include loss of consciousness, seizures and muscle paralysis. If your child develops fever or any of these symptoms, your child should be seen by a physician."

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