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Fear, confusion grip residents as they line up for antibiotic



Published: Mon, June 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Parents are concerned over what happens next.

By JENNINE ZELEZNIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

SALEM -- Three-year-old Chantz Jenkins huddled in his brown coat against the chill wind blowing through the parking lot of Southeast Elementary School.

His older sister, Erin McGuire, stood beside him, her hands buried deep in the pockets of her brightly-colored pullover.

"I'm really scared," Erin said, her voice shaking a bit. "If we didn't get this prescription, I'd be afraid that I would die."

The Dungannon residents -- along with their mother, Edna Jenkins -- were waiting in line with hundreds of others Sunday morning for an antibiotic to fend off meningococcal disease, a severe infection of the bloodstream. Three area teens have already succumbed to diseases caused by the bacteria. As area residents wait to see what happens next, many expressed their worries that the disease may hit their families, too.

"If you lose your kid, you may as well bury yourself," Anita Sell of Salem said, placing a hand on her son Nathan's shoulder. "They are the most important things in your life."

Salem resident Marcie Yuhaniak's two children, John and Kellee, attend school at United Local.

"You never worry about things like this -- never think about this," she said. "Then to have so many infected all at once -- I don't know. I just don't know."

Confusion: A student at Southeast Elementary, Charlie Sanders, 11, characterized residents' feelings simply.

"We're all confused about it," he said, but made sure to clarify, "I'm not scared, though."

Many others in the area are, however. As Adam Weyandt of Sebring said, "It's like the Black Plague. No one knows what's really going on, but everybody's scared."

Karie Struble of Lisbon held her young son close to her chest while waiting for the antibiotic.

"This is pretty scary," she said, stroking the boy's blond hair. "This is some pretty scary stuff."

Rumors of government cover-ups of other cases are running rampant. So far, the only confirmed cases of meningococcal disease are the two students from West Branch High School who died last week, and Christin Van Camp of Marlington High School, who was life-flighted to Akron Children's Hospital Saturday morning. According to the latest reports, she is now in serious condition.

Many want to just protect their families and themselves as much as possible.

Warned: Lana Ferguson's daughter Rebecca is a second-grader at Sebring. She's warned her daughter to be careful while at school.

"I've told her not to drink out of the water fountains, and not to share her cups or food with anybody," Ferguson said, rocking on the swing of her front porch. "She knows to be careful."

Eli Griffith, 10, of Sebring said he and his friends are being careful, too.

"We don't jump on the trampoline anymore," he said, sitting on his front porch with his friend Christian Broezenski. "We don't want to sweat on each other."

Meningococcal disease is spread through contact with saliva and respiratory excretions. Symptoms include a stiff neck, fever, aches and a rash. Children should be discouraged from sharing eating and drinking utensils and should cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing.




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