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Q & A: What is meningitis? The facts laid out

The recent death of a Killeen Independent School District student has many in Central Texas questioning what is meningitis?

TEMPLE, Texas — The recent death of a Killeen Independent School District student has many in Central Texans questioning what is meningitis?

The district confirmed the death of the second-grade boy who attended Saegert Elementary School on Thursday. 

RELATED: Killeen ISD student who contracted bacterial meningitis dies, district says

The district originally reported that the boy had meningococcal meningitis but the Department of State Health Services told Channel 6 Wednesday it was pneumococcal meningitis. 

District spokesman Terry Abbott said the school is safe and no other cases of meningitis were reported.  

Saegert Elementary was cleaned Tuesday night with hospital-grade disinfectant and fogged, according to KISD Superintendent John Craft.

What is pneumococcal meningitis?

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, also called pneumococcus. Pneumococcus can cause many types of illnesses, including ear infections and meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

What causes meningitis?

Pneumococcal, or Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, is one kind of bacteria that causes meningitis. It is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in adults and the second most common cause of meningitis in children older than age 2, according to medlineplus.gov. Other causes are:

  • fungi
  • viruses
  • parasites

What are the symptoms of pneumococcal meningitis?

Symptoms of pneumococcal meningitis usually occur within one to three days. Symptoms generally include sudden fever and chills or rigors, according to the CDC.  Other symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough with  productive of mucus
  • Rusty sputum
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Of those who contract the disease, about 8 percent of children die and 22 percent of adults. 

How common is pneumococcal meningitis?

Pneumococcal meningitis is not common. About 2,000 cases of the disease are reported every year, according to the CDC website.

VIDEO: Meningitis explained

Can you prevent pneumococcal meningitis?

The most effective way to protect against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to get vaccinated. There are vaccines for three types of bacteria that can cause meningitis:

  • Neisseria meningitidis
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Hib

Like any vaccine, those that protect against the bacteria are not 100 percent effective and do not protect against all types of bacteria. 

What to do if someone has meningitis?

Someone with bacterial meningitis may take antibiotics to help keeps others from getting sick. 

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