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CANFIELD Teacher has meningitis



Published: Tue, June 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Only one out of every 1,000 people infected with the virus develops the disease.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- A middle-school gym teacher here has been diagnosed with viral meningitis -- a rarely fatal form of the disease that killed two West Branch High School students in May.

Robert Tinkey, a gym teacher at Canfield Village Middle School, was diagnosed with the viral form of meningitis last week. Superintendent Douglas Hiscox said Tinkey is home from the hospital and "progressing very well."

Tinkey couldn't be reached to comment Monday.

A person is diagnosed with meningitis when the tissues around his or her brain and spinal cord become inflamed. The inflammation can be caused by several types of bacteria, fungi and viruses.

The two West Branch students who died in late May -- Jonathan Stauffer, 15, and Kelly Coblentz, 16 -- were infected by bacteria. Tinkey, meanwhile, is infected with a virus.

The difference: Linda Ewing, the deputy director of nursing for clinical services for the Mahoning County District Board of Health, said the viral form of the disease is typically not fatal. She added that according to the Ohio Department of Health, only one in every 1,000 people who are infected with the virus develop meningitis.

"You might just develop a cold from it," she said. Most people who are infected with the virus either have no symptoms or develop a rash, low-grade fever, or an upper respiratory infection, the state health department says.

The symptoms of viral meningitis include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, drowsiness or confusion, and nausea and vomiting.

Tinkey didn't develop meningitis until after the school year had ended. Hiscox said he contacted officials at the district board of health and the state health department after learning Tinkey had the disease.

Spread? The officials told him there was little chance of the disease spreading in the school, since the 7-to-10-day incubation period for the virus already had passed.

"It wasn't something that was going to spread," Hiscox said.

The virus that causes meningitis is typically spread through direct contact with the saliva, mucus, or fecal matter of an infected person. A person can contract the virus by rubbing his or her face after shaking hands with an infected person.

In addition, a person also can contract the virus from a water bottle or unwashed eating utensils that have been used by an infected person.

Ewing stressed that the best way to prevent the spread of viral meningitis is to wash your hands.

hill@vindy.com




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