January 3, 2018
Dear CH-UH School Community,
A staff member of Heights Middle School was recently diagnosed with bacterial meningitis while on winter break. Before we resume classes on Monday, I want to share the actions the district has taken to ensure the health and safety of our staff and students.
HMS Staff Member
Last week we received notification that a Heights Middle School staff member had been admitted to the Cleveland Clinic and diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. The information we have received indicates the staff member contracted the infection outside of school while on the winter break.
Out of respect for the privacy of the staff member and their family we are not disclosing the person's name. A retired CH-UH teacher is prepared to serve as a substitute in the staff member’s absence.
As a precautionary measure, Heights Middle School is being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Our normal daily cleaning and disinfecting procedures would be sufficient to address this situation, but the District will also be using its Clorox 360 disinfectant system at the middle school. This new system uses electrostatic technology to deliver Clorox disinfectants on high-traffic and hard-to-reach surfaces, killing bacteria and viruses in minutes.
This deep clean, in combination with the length of the school break, will ensure students and staff are safe to enter the building when classes resume on Monday, January 8.
It is important to note that the District has not been directed to take additional steps or notify any specific students or staff regarding the infection by the Cleveland Clinic or the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH).
The CCBH has notified the District that the particular strand of bacterial meningitis contracted by the staff member is not the strand that requires an enhanced response such as individual notification and other measures.
Complete information on meningitis can be found on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at CDC.gov/meningitis. As it pertains to our District, here are some items to keep in mind regarding bacterial meningitis:
- The bacteria that causes meningitis does not live long outside the body on surfaces or floors. Most of the bacteria are not as contagious as the common cold or the flu. Generally, the germs are spread from one person to another, such as through coughing or sneezing while in close contact.
- The germs are not spread through casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.
- The most effective way to protect you and your child against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to get vaccinated. If you are unsure if your child has received the appropriate vaccine, check with your family physician.
- Other practical measures to protect against the disease include regularly washing your hands; covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing; not sharing drinks, eating utensils and such; and maintaining your immune system by practicing healthy habits.
- Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include a sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and confusion. Symptoms can appear quickly or over several days. Typically symptoms occur 3-7 days after exposure. Later symptoms can be very severe (i.e. seizures, coma). For this reason, anyone who thinks they may have meningitis should see a doctor as soon as possible.
For more information, visit the CDC.gov or call the Cuyahoga County Board of Health at (216) 201-2000.
We recognize that this situation was reported in the media prior to the District sending out a message to families. We want to assure our community that we responded immediately to this situation while protecting the privacy of the staff member and their family.
District leadership has been in regular communication with the family to provide support and with medical staff to seek guidance on the appropriate information to share with our school community. If the District had been directed to contact any specific students or staff members, we would have done so immediately. Thankfully, this was not the case.
I hope this information helps reduce some of your concerns regarding the safety of our students and staff as we prepare to resume classes. Please keep the staff member and their family in your thoughts as they face this difficult ordeal.
Dr. Talisa Dixon
Superintendent, CH-UH City Schools