All West Branch schools were closed last week and are to reopen Monday.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
ALLIANCE -- Salem schools have been closed for the remainder of the school year and graduations have been postponed there and at Marlington High School in the wake of a third student's falling ill with a form of the disease that claimed the lives of two West Branch students.
Local and state health officials confirmed a third case of a form of meningitis Saturday, prompting hundreds of residents to line up outside hospitals and makeshift clinics to get preventive antibiotics.
Christin Van Camp, a Marlington High School senior, was disagnosed Saturday with neisseria meningitides, said Dr. Mark Hostettler, medical director of Alliance Community Hospital.
Hostettler has been consulting with officials from area and regional health departments, the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to develop a plan to prevent the illness from infecting more area residents.
Doctors expected to know within 24 hours if the three cases were the same strain, Hostettler said.
Health officials said they where considering whether residents in the entire area would need to receive the antibiotics. It was not immediately clear how many people could be affected.
"As this situation has evolved, it is possible that with the advice of the Centers for Disease Control, we may consider an immunization plan," Hostettler said.
Van Camp, 18, was in serious condition Saturday night in Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron, according to a nursing supervisor.
Marlington High is on U.S. Route 62 between Alliance and Louisville in Stark County.
Two students from West Branch High School in Beloit died last week, apparently of meningococcal disease, which can be spread by drinking out of the same container or sharing a utensil.
Officials were still awaiting results from tests to determine if the students died of the same strain of the disease.
Antibiotics offered: Health officials were recommending that staff, students and parents in the Marlington, West Branch and Alliance city school districts get preventive antibiotics from Alliance Community Hospital and Immediate Medical Services Center in Salem.
Free antibiotics, in pill form, are being distributed to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.
The antibiotics are available in the Salem hospital lobby and its satellite, Immediate Medical Services Center, 2461 W. State St., around the clock.
A temporary satellite clinic has also been set up at Southeast Elementary School.
Workers ran out of the child's dosage Saturday night, but more was to be on hand this morning.
To ensure an ample supply of the antibiotics, Karen Vrabec, director of public relations at the hospital, said shipments are being received from several sources.
An immunization plan may also be implemented, she added.
The facilities planned to stay open round-the-clock Saturday to accommodate the long lines of people waiting for the free antibiotics.
Salem officials estimated there were some 300 people in line at the school at one point Saturday night. By 10 p.m. they were telling those at the end of the line they had a two-hour wait.
Police were called to direct traffic.
The scene was similar at Alliance Community Hospital.
Postponements: Marlington postponed its graduation ceremonies scheduled for today.
Salem officials changed its Sunday graduation to Monday at 7 p.m.
Superintendent David Brobeck said Saturday night that reports that a Salem student had fallen ill are not true and that classes were not resuming because of the clinic set up in Southeast Elementary School.
Since the last day of classes was to be Wednesday anyway, he said he and the board decided it wasn't worth the effort.
Buckel did not immediately know when graduation would be rescheduled at Marlington, and district officials were to meet today to discuss whether the school would resume Monday for the last three days of the school year.
All West Branch schools were closed last week and are to reopen Monday. West Branch High School sits about midway between Salem and Alliance.
Relationship unclear: Most health and school officials, meanwhile, did not know Saturday if Van Camp had any contact with the other two victims, but Vrabec said she had attended the funeral of West Branch sophomore Kelly Coblentz.
Marlington and West Branch high schools are about 15 miles apart and students from the two schools often have social contact with one another, Buckel said.
The first student, Jonathan Stauffer, 15, a freshman at West Branch, died May 26 in Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron.
On Monday, Coblentz, 16, died in Tod Children's Hospital in Youngstown.
Both had attended the annual school picnic May 25. Family members said Stauffer and Coblentz were friends.
West Branch Superintendent Louis Ramunno has said it's possible the two had shared a water bottle at the picnic.
Symptoms of meningitis include high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion and possible rash.